When the recession struck the US, among the places its impact was felt most dramatically were the ports of Southern California, where container traffic, an all-important measure of economic activity, plunged by more than 1.4 million units between 2007 and 2008, then plummeted another 2.5 million units between 2008 and 2009. So it should come as no surprise that industry experts in Southern California—where two of the largest ports in the nation are located—are keeping a close eye on traffic. They expect that when the recovery arrives, some of the first places it will make an impact will be at the ports, as well as in the logistics industry that so closely reflects port activity.

An uptick in traffic, logistics-watchers say, could be one of the first signs of a recovery since more logistics business means more demand for distribution space. And demand for distribution space is likely to increase long before occupancy rises for office, which is expected to lag rather than lead the recovery.

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