The union representing longshoremen at East Coast ports has agreed to a 30-day contract extension, averting a potential strike on Sunday. A work stoppage at ports including those in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, would have had a huge effect on the region's economy.

 

 An enormous number of jobs are connected with the ports in North and South Jersey alone, says economics professor Joe Seneca of Rutgers University.

"An estimate of $48 billion in economic activity as result just in New Jersey of the port work," he estimates. "And if you take that on a weekly basis, that's nearly a billion dollars a week. So it could quickly add up even in short strike."

Retailers are making contingency plans in case the contract dispute is not settled and there's a strike next month.

Some merchants already have started to bring in more products by rail or by truck.

"There are other ports in the country that won't be impacted," says John Holub of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association. "So retailers can ship in things from the West Coast ports and from Canada, but obviously those come at a cost. The longer distance you have to travel, the greater expense it will be to retailers to get the products on the shelves."

Those increased costs could lead to higher prices at the stores.