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The Latest California Trade Report- Released February 2023

Center for Jobs and the Economy

Feb 8, 2023

Transportation & Warehousing remains the primary middle-class wage, blue collar industry expanding in the state

The share of total US goods trade (exports and imports) through California ports was largely unchanged with a dip to 16.00% (12 month moving average; compared to 16.03% in November 2022 and 17.05% in December 2021).

California remained the #2 state, behind Texas with 19.79% (compared to 19.68% in November 2022 and 18.04% in December 2021). Trade through the Atlantic port states was at 29.58% (compared to 29.65% in November 2022 and 30.23% in December 2021).

While the critical infrastructure required to support the state’s competitive position for this economic activity continues to be under challenge, Transportation & Warehousing remains the primary middle-class wage, blue collar industry expanding in the state. Between 2007 and 2022, the historical base for this type of upward mobility job—Manufacturing—saw employment drop by 158,000. This job loss was more than covered by growth in Transportation & Warehousing by 331,800. The Warehouse & Storage component alone grew by 183,100. Much of this growth occurred during the recent pandemic, the sole point of expanding rather than recovering jobs in this period.

Transportation & Warehousing is not the only industry that can provide better-paying jobs and consequently upward mobility options to these workers, but it is the only one showing substantial growth in the state. Yet as with other portions of the traditional middle-class wage economy, growing costs are already pushing some of the warehouse components to other states, in particular Arizona. Port congestion, rising operating costs, and continued labor action uncertainty have also led to a shift in the underlying base for these jobs, as the share of US trade through California ports dropped from the recent high of 18.6% in February 2018, to only 16.0% in the latest data. In this period, Texas went from 16.9% to 19.8%, essentially reversing the relative position of the two states and pushing California into an increasingly distant second place.

The full report can be read here.

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