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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

May 20, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Seattle trying to be ready for a rebound in trade

Top of the News: Last week’s dedication of a retooled Terminal 30 at the Port of Seattle lacked one thing to complement the VIP speeches and toasts: a container ship. With the severe decline in world trade, U.S. ports have seen falling traffic for months.

But getting Terminal 30 ready in a recession is a gutsy and important move. It will allow China Shipping to expand container traffic to Seattle that otherwise might have gone to Los Angeles/Long Beach (which has seen imports plunge 21.5 percent), or even to the rising rival at Prince Rupert, B.C.

Another threat Seattle is racing to address: The 2014 completion of the $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, which could allow Asian container ships easier access to Gulf and East Coast ports.

The port says it invested $49.4 million in the new Terminal 30, generating nearly 600 local jobs. Terminal operations are expected to 473 jobs with an annual payroll of $24.3 million. With a capacity of 400,000 containers and a 50-foot draft, the 70-acre terminal can handle the world’s largest container ships.

The unanswerable questions: How soon will trade revive, and how will it change with American consumers strapped with debt? Commerce Secretary Gary Locke wants more American exports. That may require a fundamental shift from the financialized economy of the past several years.

Midweek bits: For what it’s worth, priests and waiters/waitresses are happier than gas station and economics bloggers. Well, I made that last one up. The others come from a National Opinion Research Center survey of job satisfaction on Time magazine’s site. It’s interactive, so see where you fit in.

–More challenges to the dollar. This story in Financial Times didn’t get traction in the U.S., but it could mark one more bit of erosion of our big national credit card: the dollar as world reserve currency. Brazil and China say they will work toward using their own currencies in trade transactions rather than American sawbucks.

–In the We’re Not Surprised Dept., Americans are again ranked as the “least green consumers” in National Geographic’s Greendex. Grist blogger Sarah Schagen comments: “Not only did we score the lowest percentage on public transit use every day, but we also scored the highest percentage of folks taking public transit never. Talk about kicking the competition’s (butt) at both ends of the spectrum.”

–Amid the unemployment stats, blue-collar males appear to be faring very badly, according to Reuters. While construction jobs may rebound (somewhat), many production jobs are gone forever. This actually continues a trend that goes as far back as the 1980s.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Nordy’s says don’t fret

But it may be a hard sell

Will Wall Street buy it?

Comments | More in Trade

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