Business & Real Estate

Strong finish in December lifts California’s export trade industry

California merchandise export trade closed out 2017 with an exceptional December, pushing the value of all shipments last year to $171.93 billion, the second-best showing ever.

Last year’s total was up 5 percent over $163.62 billion amassed in 2016 and fell just short of the all-time record of $173.87 billion set in 2014, according to Beacon Economics’ analysis of U.S. trade statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Beacon noted that the comparison was on a straight-up dollar basis, not accounting for inflation.

Even so, analysts were ecstatic over California businesses shipping merchandise valued at $15.32 billion in December, a nearly 10 percent gain over $14.04 billion recorded in December 2016.

“Strong demand for California agricultural products, with an assist from a weakening dollar, helped propel the December export surge,” said Jock O’Connell, Beacon’s international trade adviser.

“With our major trading partners seeing an acceleration in economic activity last year, California’s export picture improved tremendously,” said Robert Kleinhenz, Beacon’s executive director of research. “We expect more of the same this year, which should be good for California manufacturers, farmers and other exporters.”

State exports of manufactured goods in December rose 5.6 percent, to $9.56 billion from $9.05 billion a year earlier. Exports of non-manufactured goods – chiefly agricultural products and raw materials – jumped a whopping 32.4 percent to $2.25 billion, up from $1.7 billion. Re-exports rose 6.7 percent to $3.51 billion, compared with $3.29 billion at the end of 2016.

Beacon said that almonds, the state’s No. 1 agricultural export, were up 41.6 percent from the previous December.

The Census Bureau figures showed that California was the state-of-destination for 19.1 percent of all U.S. merchandise imports in December, with a value of $38.29 billion, 6.2 percent higher than $36.05 billion in imported goods in December 2016.

Some goods entering California go to other states, so exports are considered a more accurate measure of the state’s trade health than imports.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover