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Trade at L.A., Long Beach ports in April up 6.3%

The nation's largest seaport complex handled more cargo containers for the 15th straight month, but trade-related jobs haven't grown as fast.

May 14, 2011|By Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times
  • A Long Beach port crane operator loads containers aboard a container ship. In April, the number of import containers moving through the port rose 12% to 270,107, compared with the same month last year. Exports jumped 10.4% to 143,683 containers.
A Long Beach port crane operator loads containers aboard a container ship.… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)

International trade at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach improved by more than 6% in April, compared with the same month a year ago, but the pace of growth slowed.

April was the 15th straight month of growth at the nation's largest seaport complex. Trade-related jobs improved as well, but at a much slower pace.

The twin ports handle more than 40% of the nation's imports from Asia, making them an important barometer for the U.S. economy and an important driver of jobs in wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing.

Although seaport trade has increased almost 8% so far in 2011, trade jobs are up just 0.7% in Southern California and 2.8% statewide.

"Employers are still being very cautious. As trade volumes have picked up they are getting more out of the people they already have, and they are hiring temporary workers who do not show up in the full-time employment figures," said John Husing, founder and head of Redlands-based Economics and Politics Inc., which tracks international trade and provided the trade jobs numbers.

In Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties, the most recent trade-related employment statistics, from March, showed a growth of 4,100 jobs to 564,833, a gain of about 0.7%, compared with the same month in 2010, Husing said.

Statewide, there were 1,062,800 people in international trade jobs in March, up 29,400, or 2.8%, compared with the same month last year, he said.

Experts who track international trade through the nation's biggest seaports expect trade nationwide to level off until summer, when it is expected to show another spurt as goods are shipped for the end-of-the-year holiday season.

"After nearly a year and a half of volume increases, it's not surprising to see some leveling off," said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation, a group that tracks trade volumes at all major U.S. seaports. "But overall consumer demand for retail goods remains strong."

In April, the Port of Los Angeles handled 312,360 cargo containers carrying imports, up 3.4% from the same month a year earlier. Export containers through the port climbed 5.8% to 167,448.

Through the first four months of the year, traffic at the nation's busiest port increased 8.5% to 2.4 million containers.

At the neighboring Port of Long Beach, which ranks second only to Los Angeles in container trade nationwide, the number of import containers rose 12% to 270,107 in April. Exports through Long Beach jumped 10.4% to 143,683 containers.

Combined, 1.1 million containers moved through the ports in April, up 6.3% from the same month a year earlier. Traffic at the two ports through the first four months of 2011 has increased 7.9%, to 4.3 million containers.

ron.white@latimes.com

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