Explaining Southern California's economy

Worry at the LA port as holiday shipments fail to materialize

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A truck passes shipping containers at China Shipping at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the busiest port complex in the U.S. (File photo 2008)

If you believe that the Port of Los Angeles is a reliable indicator of the holiday retail season, then signs for a Merry Christmas are not very good. This from the L.A. Times:

International trade is one of Southern California's most important sources of relatively high-wage blue-collar employment. More than half the state's 1.1 million cargo-related jobs are located in the region, where a boost in cargo would have had an immediate effect on the amount of work available to dockworkers, truck drivers, warehouse and distribution center staff, railroad workers and others.

Instead, cargo traffic through the Port of Los Angeles showed a slight overall decline in September, down 0.8% to 705,623 cargo containers, compared with 711,613 a year earlier. Imports through the nation's largest container port were down 0.2% to 372,655 containers. The only bright spot was in U.S. exports through Los Angeles, which continued on a course toward a new record, up 26.6% to 176,954 containers.

If you're worried about the trade deficit — and some economists are, especially Peter Morici — this is somewhat good news: We're taking advantage of the weak dollar to adjust our trade imbalances, sending more stuff abroad through L.A. than we take in.

But if you're hopeful that a big holiday selling season will rescue the economy from a fairly miserable 2010, then you might need to prepare to be disappointed. Retailers aren't stocking up in anticipation of consumer demand.

But take heart. There's always next year.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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