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Green Shoots Remain Elusive for California Exporters - June's Shipments Down 25% From Last Year

By Jock O'Connell

Sacramento, August 12. A severe fall-off in California's merchandise export trade persisted into its eighth straight month in June as the economic woes that have gripped nearly all of the state's major trading partners continued to choke demand for the state's products.

Golden State exports were valued at $9.98 billion in June. Although that did represent a gain of $479 million over the preceding month, it was still 24.9 percent below the $13.29 billion in goods the state shipped abroad in June of last year, according to an analysis compiled by the University of California Center Sacramento (UCCS) based on data released this morning by the U.S. Commerce Department.

"The fact that June's export numbers were higher than May's does not signal an imminent recovery in our foreign trade," observed Jock O'Connell, the UC Center's international trade and economics adviser. "Historically, June's exports have typically been higher than May's, and these were the lowest California export figures for the month of June since 2005."

Compared with last June, California's exports of manufactured products were off by 28.8 percent, while shipments of agricultural goods and other non-manufactured items shrunk by 23.6 percent. Re-exports of goods previously imported into the state fell by 10.3 percent.

Through the first half of 2009, California exports are down by 23.0 percent compared to the same period last year, when the state's export trade amounted to $73.22 billion. So far this year, California has exported just $56.35 billion in goods.

"Grim as the picture may be, we can perhaps derive some solace from the fact that California has been doing somewhat better than the rest of the nation," O'Connell remarked. "While our exports are down 23 percent since January, U.S. exports are off by 24.7 percent."

The plight of the state's exporters was more than shared by its importers. The UC Center Sacramento analysis indicated that the value of foreign goods entering the U.S. through California fell by 33.4 percent in June.

Not surprisingly, the volume of containerized cargos passing through the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland -- California's three largest maritime gateways -- has been off by 19.6 percent so far this year, according to the UCCS report.