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Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

economy

Port of Entry: Houston (Seaport)Impact to the Texas Economy, 2018

Ports of entry within the state of Texas accounted for nearly $740 billion in international trade in 2018. Texas has 29 official ports of entry that serve as critical gateways to global trade. Each port, whether an airport, land port or seaport, serves many domestic and international economic activities across multiple industries. Each Texas port plays a distinctive role in the state’s transportation network and contributes to the state and local economies.

Of Texas’ total international trade, $261 billion, or 35.3 percent, traveled through the state’s seaports, with the Port of Houston accounting for 61.3 percent of the seaport trade, or about $159.8 billion.1 Each seaport facilitates the movement of goods between Texas and nations throughout the world. Each Texas seaport is unique, offering different capabilities and many shipping options, including bulk, roll-on/roll-off, container and liquid/gas shipping.

Economic Contribution

Based on the Comptroller’s estimate, trade through the Port of Houston in 2018 affected about 713,000 net jobs in Texas. Approximately $107.6 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) is related to trade through the Port of Houston (Exhibit 1).2

Exhibit 1:Trade through the Port of Houston
Estimated Total Contribution to the Texas Economy, 20183
DescriptionValue
Total direct trade value $159.8 billion
Related gross domestic product4 $107.6 billion
Total employment affected5 712,600

Sources: Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI) model for Texas, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Port of Houston Trade

The Port of Houston is one of 10 seaports along Texas’ 367-mile coastline on the Gulf of Mexico.

Exhibit 2: Trading Partners and Trade Products through  the Port of Houston (based on $ value), 2018
DescriptionPartners/Products
Top origins of imported goods: China, Mexico, Germany
Top destinations for exported goods: Mexico, Brazil, the Netherlands
Top products imported through this port: petroleum products, machinery, steel
Top products exported through this port: petroleum products, chemicals

Source: U.S. Census Bureau: Economic Indicators Division, USA Trade Online

In 2018, the Port of Houston handled more than 182 billion tons of cargo, with petroleum-related cargo accounting for 69 percent of the total tonnage (Exhibit 2). Shipping activity through this port accounted for $159.8 billion in trade in 2018, 220 percent more than in 2003 ($49.9 billion) (Exhibit 3).

Port of Houston, All Trade (All Commodities), 2003 to 2018

Exhibit 3: Port of Houston, All Trade (All Commodities), 2003 to 2018
Year Total Trade through Houston (in billions) Percentage of Total Trade through Seaports
2003 49.9 billion dollars 55.4%
2004 66.1 billion dollars 55.7%
2005 86.2 billion dollars 57.0%
2006 103.0 billion dollars 57.9%
2007 114.9 billion dollars 58.0%
2008 147.8 billion dollars 56.4%
2009 106.2 billion dollars 59.9%
2010 131.0 billion dollars 58.0%
2011 169.1 billion dollars 58.8%
2012 176.6 billion dollars 59.7%
2013 168.5 billion dollars 60.1%
2014 167.2 billion dollars 61.1%
2015 136.6 billion dollars 67.0%
2016 112.7 billion dollars 67.4%
2017 131.8 billion dollars 63.2%
2018 159.8 billion dollars 61.3%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau: Economic Indicators Division, USA Trade Online

The Port of Houston’s top three trading partners account for slightly more than a quarter of all trade traversing the port (Exhibit 4). The port’s top trading partner, Mexico, represents 10.4 percent of its total trade, while the second- and third-largest, China and Brazil, represent 9.3 and 6 percent, respectively. The next three largest trading partners, Germany, the Netherlands and South Korea, each account for about 4 percent.

Exhibit 4:Port of Houston Trade Value (2014 to 2018)
YearOverall Trade (billions) Trade with Mexico, China and Brazil (billions)
Total TradeExportsImports Trade % of Total ExportsImports
2018 $159.8 $90.2 $69.6 $41.1 25.7% $21.1 $20.1
2017 $131.8 $71.9 $59.9 $36.0 27.4% $18.5 $17.5
2016 $112.7 $62.9 $49.7 $28.6 25.4% $14.7 $13.9
2015 $136.6 $76.8 $59.8 $32.9 24.1% $16.5 $16.4
2014 $167.2 $92.0 $75.2 $42.1 25.2% $19.4 $22.7

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau: Economic Indicators Division, USA Trade Online


  1. U.S. Census Bureau: USA Trade Online – U.S. Import and Export Merchandise trade statistics.
  2. Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI) model for Texas was used with total trade value attributed to this port as a percentage of Texas’ total trade value as an input. These data were used to generate a weighted estimate of net jobs and GDP associated with trade at this port.
  3. The estimated contributions offer a strong indicator of the economic importance of this port of entry to Texas; estimates as such are not precise quantifications of direct or indirect contributions to the Texas economy.
  4. “Gross domestic product” refers to the total value of all final goods and services produced in Texas.
  5. “Total employment” refers to both direct and indirect employment.
  6. U.S. Census Bureau: Economic Indicators Division, USA Trade Online.

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