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California's Export Trade Improves Marginally in September

Sacramento, November 13 – California’s export trade showed marginal improvement in September, even though export totals remained well below those reported in September of last year.

The state's merchandise export trade in September was valued at just over $10.35 billion, up 3.2 percent from August but 16.3 percent below the $12.36 billion in goods the state shipped abroad in September 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.

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

Exports of manufactured goods remained weak, down 19.3 percent from last September. By contrast, agricultural goods and other non-manufactured exports declined by just 8.2 percent over the same period, while re-exports of goods previously imported into the state were off by 9.8 percent.

“Viewed from the bottom of the trench we’ve been in since last fall, September’s figures represent modest progress in growing California’s export trade,” observed Jock O’Connell, the UC Center’s international trade and economics adviser.

“The data also suggest that Northern California may be turning the corner faster than faster than Southern California,” he added.

O’Connell noted that the number of loaded shipping containers leaving the neighboring Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in September was down by 8.6 percent from last year. By contrast, loaded containers sailing from the Port of Oakland were up by 12.5 percent over the same period.

The reverse was the case for airborne exports. Export tonnage in September rose by 1.3 percent over last September at Los Angeles International, but slipped by 3.6 percent at San Francisco International, Northern California’s primary aviation gateway.

Other statistics released this morning by the U.S. Commerce Department show that the value of U.S. exports shipped through the Los Angeles Customs District in September was 22.1 percent less than last September, while exports from the San Francisco Customs District were off by 16.4 percent. Meanwhile, exports through the San Diego Customs District were down 12.7 percent.

So far in 2009, California exports have totaled $86.5 billion, down 22.3 percent compared to the first nine months of 2008, when the state’s exports amounted to $111.3 billion.

As for when California’s exports would begin to exceed the levels of last year, O’Connell said that could happen as soon as November. However, he emphasized that even then the state’s export trade would remain well below 2007 levels.

Things were no better in September on the import side of the ledger. The UC Center Sacramento analysis revealed that $30.9 billion in foreign goods entered the U.S. through California in September, a drop of 20.1 percent from the $38.7 billion reported in September of last year. [Note: There are no data sources measuring the value or volume of imports by state of final destination.]