The Numbers Are In: U.S. Maritime Workforce Grows to 650,000, Contributing $154 Billion Annually

jones act container ship
File photo shows the Horizon Spirit at the Port of Los Angeles. Photo: American Maritime Partnership

The U.S. maritime industry now employees nearly 650,000 Americans with jobs across all 50 states and contributes $154 billion to the nation’s economic growth annually, according to new economic and jobs data released by Transportation Institute (TI), a leading maritime association and advocacy group for national maritime policy in the United States. 

Following last month’s news of 304,000 U.S. jobs created in January, the Transportation Institute on Monday announced a 30% increase in domestic maritime job creation enabled by the Jones Act, the U.S. requiring the transportation of goods between two U.S. points is carried out by American built, owned, and crewed vessels. 

The Transportation Institute shared today findings from a study published by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) which the advocacy group says affirms the impressive economic benefits of the domestic maritime industry. Specifically, the report finds that the Jones Act-enabled maritime industry contributes more than $154 billion in total economic output annually, creating $41 billion in labor income for American workers each year and adding $72 billion annually to the value of U.S. economic output. The industry also sustains nearly 650,000 American jobs, with one shipyard job creating four jobs elsewhere in the economy. 

“From shipyards to the high seas, the maritime industry is indisputably contributing to the American economy in a major way,” said James L. Henry, Chairman and President of the Transportation Institute. “This new study shows the spectacular impact that our industry has on our nation’s overall well-being, especially by providing livelihoods to 650,000 hard-working Americans, thousands of whom proudly served in our military. We simply would not be as strong as we are without the veteran community, and it’s a source of great pride that our growth is benefitting them and their families. Needless to say, the report underscores just how indispensable the Jones Act continues to be for the security and prosperity of our entire country.”

The 40,000 vessels that comprise the Jones Act fleet move nearly one billion tons of cargo annually – or roughly a quarter of the nation’s freight – along U.S. internal waterways, across the Great Lakes, and over the oceans to Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories. Shipped goods include a variety of products, from raw materials and commodities like coal and crude oil to consumer products.  

Encompassing jobs in all 50 states, and the District of Columbia, the Jones Act workforce accounts for $41 billion in American labor income annually, according to the Institute.

“In a growing economy – where job creation continues to flourish at historic levels – the Jones Act remains the quintessential ‘Buy American, Hire American’ law, one that puts American workers first and is critically important for guaranteeing our national security and maintaining our defense industrial base,” the Transportation Institute said.