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California's February Export Numbers: More Grim News

Sacramento, April 9, 2009 - California's merchandise export trade deteriorated further in February amidst a worldwide economic and financial crisis that also saw imports plunge sharply.

Golden State exports in February totaled $9.1 billion, some 19.5 percent below the $11.3 billion the state exported in the same month last year, according to figures compiled by the University of California Center Sacramento from data released this morning by the U.S. Commerce Department.

The state's manufactured exports declined by 20.3 percent, while agricultural goods and other non-manufactured exports shrunk by 20.6 percent.

"California's export trade is showing few symptoms of imminent recovery," Jock O'Connell, the UC Center's international trade and economics adviser, observed.

He noted that February was the fourth consecutive month in which California's exports fell well below the levels reported for the same months in the preceding year. Exports in November 2008 were 6.3 percent lower than the previous November, while December's exports fell 13.7 percent from December 2007. January's exports were off 21.6 percent from January 2008.

The drop in export shipments was apparent at California's three largest seaports and its two main international airports. The number of outbound loaded containers in February was off by 20.0 percent at the Port of Oakland, 27.6 percent at the Port of Los Angeles, and by a whopping 37.0 percent at the Port of Long Beach.

Likewise for air freight, export tonnage was off 20.3 percent at Los Angeles International Airport, while San Francisco International Airport saw a 38.3 percent fall off.

"Even though exports are a lagging economic indicator," O'Connell warned, "it is likely to be several months before we start seeing a sustained turnaround in our export trade."

"This is a global crisis in which the customers for traded goods have grown scarce not only abroad but here at home," he explained. Although the state's exports have been down, the impact of the global economic crisis has been more severe on the import side of the ledger. O'Connell pointed to data indicating that the value of foreign goods entering California via the three U.S. Customs Districts encompassing the state plunged 36.9 percent in February.

"All in all, it's be a terrible few months for people who make, sell and transport goods around the world," he concluded.