Another big month for California exports

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California’s exporters showed another impressive year-over-year gain in performance in November, shipping $12.49 billion in goods for sale to customers overseas. That represented an increase of more than 14% compared with the $10.95 billion sent to foreign markets during the same month a year earlier.

Still, it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the export gains in the rest of the U.S., according to U.S. Commerce Department data released by San Rafael-based Beacon Economics.

“On the bright side, this was our best November ever in inflation-adjusted terms, and it did mark the 13th consecutive month of year-over-year increases in California’s export trade,” said Jock O’Connell, international trade advisor for Beacon Economics. “The not-so-good news is that California was decisively outpaced by the nation as a whole in overall merchandise export growth in November, 19.4% to 14.1%.”

California plays a huge role in the nation’s export health. The state accounted for 11.1% of all U.S. exports in November and was the source of 9.6% of its manufactured exports.


Unfortunately, the growth has not helped reduce the state’s still-high unemployment rate, largely because cautious businesses have gotten used to getting much better output out of the smaller workforces they have relied on since the global recession.

“California manufacturers have become exceptionally efficient in increasing output without adding new hires. And the goods they produce tend to be of increasingly higher value. That’s why it is possible for the value of our manufactured exports to rise without there being a commensurate level of job growth,” O’Connell explained.

In fact, the state’s manufacturing numbers are still headed in the wrong direction, the Beacon report said.

California Employment Development Department labor market reports showed manufacturing employment in the state fell by 4,400 jobs between November 2009 and November 2010, even while 110,900 jobs were being added to the state’s overall payroll numbers.

Export volumes were up at the state’s three major seaports -- Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland -- with the number of outbound, loaded containers totaling 401,159, an increase of 14.9% over the previous November. California’s premier international aviation gateways, Los Angeles International and San Francisco International, posted a 15.4% gain in export tonnage over November 2009.

Looking at Southern California alone, the number of loaded outbound containers from the neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was up by 18.8% from November 2009, while Los Angeles International saw a 16.2% increase in air freight export tonnage.

More detailed trade data from Beacon Economics can be found here.

-- Ronald D. White