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California Exports Show Modest Gains in October 2009

Sacramento, December 10, 2009 – California’s export trade showed continued improvement in October, even though the numbers fell well below those reported in the same month last year.

The state's merchandise exports in October totaled just over $11.08 billion, up 7.0 percent from September but still 10.9 percent below the $12.44 billion in goods the state shipped abroad in October of last year, according to a University of California Center Sacramento analysis of international trade data released this morning by the U.S. Commerce Department.

October was the twelfth consecutive month in which California posted export totals lower than those reported in the same month a year earlier. It also saw the lowest California export totals for the month of October since 2005.

Exports of manufactured goods remained weak, down 12.4 percent from last October. Exports of agricultural products and other non-manufactured goods similarly declined by 11.8 percent over the same period, while re-exports of goods previously imported into the state were off by only 5.1 percent.

“While still in serious condition, the patient's health is gradually improving,” observed Jock O’Connell, the UC Center’s international trade and economics adviser.

"During the spring and early summer of this year, California’s export trade had been off as much as twenty-five percent from the preceding year," he noted.

O'Connell also said the latest data continue to indicate that Northern California is turning the corner faster than faster than Southern California.

The number of loaded shipping containers leaving the neighboring Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in October was up by 1.0 percent from last year. By contrast, loaded containers sailing from the Port of Oakland were ahead of last October's numbers by 17.2 percent. The leading maritime exports have been goods of relatively low value such as scrap metal and waste paper.

At the state's two major international aviation gateways, export tonnage in October was down just 0.1 percent at Los Angeles International, but was ahead by 0.6 at San Francisco International. Airborne shipments typically involve high value-added products such as electronics equipment, pharmaceuticals, and perishable fruits and vegetables.

Other statistics released today show that the value of U.S. exports shipped through the San Francisco Customs District declined by 7.0 percent from last October, while the value of U.S. exports from the Los Angeles Customs District was off by 13.4 percent. Exports through the San Diego Customs District were likewise down by12.9 percent in value.

Thusfar in 2009, California exports have totaled $97.6 billion, down 21.1 percent compared to the first ten months of 2008, when the state’s exports amounted to $123.7 billion.

Asked when California’s exports would begin to exceed last year’s figures, O’Connell said that could have happened in November, although we won’t know until the official trade figures are released early next month. However, he emphasized that even then the state’s export trade would still remain well below its 2007 level.

Things were no better in October on the import side of the ledger. The UC Center Sacramento analysis revealed that $32.2 billion in foreign goods entered the U.S. through California in October, a drop of 18.1 percent from the $39.3 billion reported in October of last year. [Note: There are no data sources measuring the value or volume of imports by state of final destination.]