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California's Export Trade Drops In Latest Numbers But Still Beats The Competition

Thursday, January 07, 2021

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(Bacon Economics)

California’s export trade continued to be buffeted by resurgent waves of COVID-19 both here and abroad, by ongoing trade disputes, by a weaker dollar, and by a reported shortage of shipping containers available to exporters, according to a Beacon Economics’ analysis of the latest U.S. trade statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In a month that saw the value of all U.S. merchandise exports drop by 7.5% from one year earlier, California exporters did better. Businesses in the state shipped a total of $14.238 billion in merchandise abroad in November, a nominal 3.5% decline from the $14.757 billion in exports the state recorded in the same month in 2019.

“We should be pleased with the bounce back in exports that occurred in late 2020 given that during the second quarter of the year exports were down 25% relative to the year before,” said Christopher Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics. “And it’s worth noting that exports have held up despite the ongoing struggle the state has had with surging COVID-19 cases.”

November shipments of manufactured products by California firms were off by 7.7% to $8.587 billion from the $9.307 billion a year earlier. Similarly, exports of non-manufactured goods (chiefly the state’s agricultural products and raw materials) were lower by 6.2% to $2.153 billion from $2.296 billion. The state’s export numbers were aided by a strong 10.9% increase in re-exports, to $3.498 billion from $3.154 billion. For the month of November, California accounted for 11.2% of all U.S. merchandise exports. Through 2020’s first eleven months, California’s $142.093 billion export trade was running 10.8% behind last year’s $159.293 billion pace.

“In a generally bad season for U.S. exports, California exporters managed to outperform their peers nationally as well as competitors in Texas and New York,” said Beacon Economics’ International Trade Advisor Jock O’Connell. “Unfortunately, along with the more highly publicized obstacles to export growth, our exporters have increasingly been experiencing difficulties corralling the shipping containers they need to transport goods abroad.”

Due to an elevated demand for imported merchandise, especially from China and elsewhere in the Far East, containers that, once emptied of their imported contents, might otherwise have been made available to U.S. exporters are now being expeditiously returned empty to Asia to be filled with even more goods bound for American markets.

The U.S. Census Bureau numbers were consistent with reports from the state’s three major seaports that show containerized exports in November were down 4.7% from the same month one year earlier. However, export tonnage from Los Angeles International Airport in that month was up by 12.3% from one year earlier.

California fared better than Texas and New York, whose November export trade totals were down by 14.8% and 6.7%, respectively.

Category: Economic News, California, International Trade