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Coronavirus In China Leads To Less Work At LA Ports

Port of Los Angeles photographed on Nov. 1, 2013. Maya Sugarman/KPCC
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The number of reported coronavirus cases may still be low in Southern California, but the effect is already pretty large at Los Angeles ports.

More than half of the goods flowing into L.A.’s twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach come from China. So when something like the coronavirus affects the Chinese economy, it affects L.A. workers, too.

February volume at the Port of Los Angeles was down by an estimated 25%. Port officials are estimating this quarter will be down about 15% from the first quarter of 2019.

Port of Long Beach executive director Mario Cordero said he’s seeing fewer workers on the docks these days.

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“Labor tells me that the dock workers are down 50% in job assignments,” Cordero said. “That's a drastic number.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has not responded to confirm that figure. Neither has the Pacific Maritime Association (the organization that represents the employers of port workers).

Cordero said recent tariffs had already decreased shipments, and now he’s seeing “a supply chain that’s gone from uncertainty to chaotic.”

Port traffic is generally down this time of year, due to China’s lunar new year celebrations. But Cordero said this year’s slowdown is about twice as bad as usual.


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