President Joe Biden paid a visit to the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest, on Friday morning to address inflation and supply chain issues amid the skyrocketing costs of consumer prices.
Standing on the waterfront with a backdrop of cargo containers and tugboats, Biden said the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles play a critical role in inflation.
“One of the keys to fight inflation is by lowering the costs of moving goods through the supply chain,” he said.
Biden said the ports have made significant gains since December in reducing the historic supply chain backlog, with 40% fewer cargo containers clogging the docks compared to last November. Both ports are slated to once again see a record year for cargo movement. Last month, the Port of Los Angeles saw its busiest month on record, while Long Beach saw its second busiest month ever.
Biden said several major infrastructure initiatives, such as the Port of Long Beach’s Pier B on-dock rail project, will continue to improve the supply chain.
The project, which will transform the Pier B rail yard into a high-tech rail support facility that can move at least 35% of cargo, cleared the federal environmental review process earlier this year.
While Americans are understandably anxious over the rising costs of food, gas and other goods, Biden said he remains encouraged by a strong economy.
Biden said the nation last month added 390,000 news jobs, for a total of 8.7 million since he took office.
“The job market is the strongest it’s been since World War II, notwithstanding the inflation,” he said, adding that the unemployment rate remains at historic lows.
Families, meanwhile, are carrying less debt on average and have more savings, he said.
“We’re doing it all while cutting the federal deficit by $1.7 trillion this year and $325 billion last year,” he said. “Because of the progress, America can tackle inflation from a position of strength unlike any other country in the world.”
His speech comes at a time when the country is seeing the highest inflation rates since 1981. The government reported Friday that consumer prices climbed 8.6% in May compared to a year ago. That’s the worst reading in more than 40 years and a troubling sign for the economy as rate hikes by the Federal Reserve have yet to tamp down inflation and gasoline costs are surging upward.
AAA separately reported that average U.S. gas prices reached a record $4.99 a gallon, an increase that has overwhelmed the president’s previous efforts to reduce overall inflation.
The gas hikes have hurt Biden’s public approval and have drawn criticism from Republican lawmakers, who have claimed that the current inflation rate is the result of his government aid being too generous and his restrictions on U.S. oil production too onerous.
On Friday, Biden framed the problem as a global challenge, triggered first by the pandemic and then by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The effort to improve the supply chain also comes at a time when contract negotiations are underway for more than 22,000 workers at 29 West Coast ports. The contract for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expires July 1, but negotiations are expected to extend past that date, which is common, officials said.
A major point of contention is automation and its impact on jobs amid supply chain issues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.