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Drop in California’s Exports Worsens in January

March 13, 2009, Sacramento. California’s export trade plummeted by over one-fifth in January, accordingly to figures compiled by the University of California Center Sacramento from the latest national trade statistics released this morning by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Reflecting the deepening crisis in the global economy, California's merchandise export trade in January totaled $8.661 billion, fully 21.6% below the $11.048 billion in California exports recorded in January 2008.

The state’s manufactured exports were down 21.1%, while non-manufactured exports (chiefly agricultural goods) were off 28.6%.

“These distressing January numbers describe an accelerating turn for the worse in California’s export trade,” said Jock O’Connell, the UC Center’s International Trade and Economics Advisor. “January’s fall-off was much more severe than the declines recorded in the prior two months,” he added.

In fact, January was the third consecutive month in which state exports fell below the level reported for the same months in the preceding year. November's exports were 6.3% lower than November 2007, while December’s exports were down 13.7% from the preceding December.

The sharp drop in state exports toward year's end was obvious at California's three largest seaports and at its two principal international airports.

At the Port of Oakland, the number of loaded containers outbound in January was down 15.2%. Even more pronounced declines in outbound movements of loaded containers were seen at the Ports of Los Angeles (-29.4%) and Long Beach (-27.3%).

At Los Angeles International Airport export tonnage was down in January by 21.3%, while San Francisco International Airport saw a 28.1% reduction in its export tonnage.

California accounted for 11.1% of America's merchandise export trade in January, well below its all-time peak share of 17.0% recorded in December 2000.

“Preliminary figures for February hardly depict an improving situation," O’Connell warned.

“It could be several months before we begin seeing signs of substantial improvement in California’s export trade and that is not good news for California workers,” he added.

O'Connell pointed to state Employment Development Department data indicating that the slowdown in world trade has been taking a serious toll in state jobs. Layoffs have been accelerating not only in the manufacturing industries but also in the logistics sector, a vital source of jobs for blue-collar workers. EDD figures show there were nearly two percent fewer manufacturing jobs in California in January than just a month earlier. There was also a 3.7% slide in trucking industry jobs and a 2.2% drop in warehousing jobs between December and January.