California's Export Trade Rebounds In Latest Numbers Despite COVID's Ongoing Economic Fallout

Friday, February 05, 2021

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(Beacon Economics)

Despite the economic drag from recurring outbreaks of both old and new strains of the coronavirus, and from ongoing trade disputes inherited by the new Biden administration, California’s export trade in December nearly matched levels in December 2019, according to Beacon Economics’ analysis of the latest U.S. trade statistics released on Feb. 5 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Businesses in the state shipped a total of $14.019 billion in merchandise abroad in December, a nominal decline of less than one-tenth of 1% from the $14.033 billion in exports the state recorded in December 2019. By comparison, the value of all U.S. merchandise exports dipped by 2.4% from one year earlier, while exports from Texas were off by 10.7%.

“Given how U.S. exports have been lagging amidst the ongoing global fight against the pandemic, this is good news for the local economy,” said Christopher Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics. “The data reflects how many of the things the state produces for the world, such as food and technology products, remain in high demand. There are still clearly pain points, but these numbers are encouraging.”

December shipments of manufactured products by California firms were off by 5.4%, falling to $8.618 billion from the $9.108 billion one year earlier. However, exports of non-manufactured goods (chiefly the state’s agricultural products and raw materials) were up by 7.7% to $1.962 billion from $1.821 billion. The state’s export numbers were also aided by a strong 10.8% increase in re-exports, which rose to $3.439 billion from $3.104 billion.

For the month of December, California accounted for 10.6% of all U.S. merchandise exports. For the entire calendar year, California’s $156.112 billion export trade was 9.9% below last year’s $173.326 billion. Manufactured exports in 2020 totaled $99.417 billion, down 11.3% from 2019, while exports of non-manufactured goods were 6.0% lower at $20.914 billion.

“What’s remarkable is that, despite the global economic fallout from the pandemic, California’s export trade in December very nearly matched its total one year earlier, before ‘COVID-19’ first appeared in a newspaper headline,” said Beacon Economics’ International Trade Advisor Jock O’Connell.

Despite media reports that ocean carriers have been rebuffing containers carrying California’s agricultural exports, tree nut exporters in California enjoyed a robust export trade in December. The California Almond Board reported a 32.1% year-over-year jump in overseas shipments of almonds, the state’s leading agricultural export. Similarly, the California Walnut Board reported a 22.6% bump in December over the same month one year earlier. Likewise, pistachio exports in December were at the highest level in the past four years, up over 126% from one year earlier. Tree nut exports through the Port of Oakland were up 36.4% over December 2019.

The U.S. Census Bureau numbers were consistent with reports from the state’s three major seaports that show containerized exports in December were down just 1.0% from the same month one year earlier. However, export tonnage from Los Angeles International Airport in that month was up by 14.43% from one year earlier. Airborne shipments account for nearly half of all California’s merchandise export trade.

Category: International Trade, Economic News