L.A Biz Observed
Mark Lacter • Bio • Email

July traffic at the Port of Los Angeles fell 2.54 percent from a year earlier, while the Port of Long Beach saw a 12.9 percent decline. The pattern all year has been big drops in container boxes coming in and big increases in boxes going out (reflecting the weak dollar). Trouble is, the volume of imports is far greater than the volume of exports so overall traffic has been down. To some extent, the sluggishness also reflects more shipping lines bypassing the two major West Coast ports by using the Panama Canal for delivery to the Gulf Coast and East Coast. Another factor is the comparison with the first part of 2007, when business was still pretty good.

Year to date, L.A. traffic is down 6.13 percent, while Long Beach is down 9.4 percent. There’s no telling when we might see bottom, though the Economic Development Corp. projects a 4.5 percent decline for all of 2008. If you’re getting OD’d on the often conflicting economic data coming out of Washington, these port numbers are worth keeping an eye on. Our economy, like it or not, is based on the willingness and ability of American consumers to buy stuff – and when there’s less and less stuff coming in, it means the country is still not in a spending mood. Here is the L.A. breakout and here are the Long Beach numbers.