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California Export Trade Rises Again; Leap Year Delivers Boost

April 12, 2012 - LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - California's exporters turned in another strong performance in February, continuing an unbroken streak of monthly year-over-year increases dating back to November 2009.

The value of goods shipped abroad by California businesses in February reached $12.85 billion, a nominal gain of 9.2% over the $11.76 billion in exports reported in February 2011, according to an analysis by Beacon Economics of foreign trade data released today by the U.S. Commerce Department.

California’s exports of manufactured goods grew by 9.1% from $7.53 billion to $8.22 billion, while non-manufactured exports (chiefly raw materials and agricultural products) were up by 3.6% from $1.55 billion to $1.61 billion. Re-exports, meanwhile, advanced by 12.9% from $2.68 billion to $3.03 billion.

These nominal gains, however, should be adjusted downward because February of this year was one day longer than February of last year.

“With 2012 a leap year, we got the Sadie Hawkins’ Day Bump this February,” said Jock O’Connell, Beacon Economics’ International Trade Adviser. “Discounting for that one extra day, California’s export trade this February was up by a solid but less impressive 5.5% over last February.”

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, California's merchandise export trade in February slipped marginally from January's level. The 1.3% fall-off mirrored a similar month-to-month decline in overall U.S. merchandise exports.

"Overall, the continued growth in California's manufactured exports is a strong sign for the state's labor markets," said Jordan Levine, Beacon Economics' Director of Economic Research. "Manufacturing has already added back nearly 10,000 jobs since hitting bottom during the recession and today's figures indicate that the sector will continue to be aided by foreign demand for California-made goods."

Beacon Economics expects to see California's exporters continue to post relatively modest year-over-year growth figures over the next several months.

Still, global economic conditions remain unsettled. "The short-term outlook for California exports is somewhat clouded by a number of familiar risks, including the European Union’s inability to turn the corner on its sovereign debt crisis, slower growth rates in most major economies, and the risk of armed conflict in the Persian Gulf," said O'Connell. "While China’s efforts to re-balance its economy toward a greater reliance on consumer spending should translate into higher demand for imported goods, that is a much longer-term prospect."

“One major plus is that California’s two biggest customers, Mexico and Canada, remain on more solid economic footing,” O'Connell said. “Growth in our export trade with Mexico has been especially robust in recent months.”

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