Business & Real Estate

California exports continue to lag last year’s figures

California export trade continued to lag behind last year’s performance in March.

The state’s merchandise exports had a total value of $13.75 billion in March, down 8.2 percent from $14.98 billion a year earlier, according to Wednesday’s report from Beacon Economics, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

The March numbers are based on U.S. Commerce Department data.

Exports of manufactured goods in March totaled $8.95 billion, down nearly 8 percent from $9.7 billion a year ago. Shipments of nonmanufactured goods – chiefly agricultural products and raw materials – were valued at $1.45 billion, a 28 percent decrease from slightly more than $2 billion in March 2015.

Re-exports edged ahead by about 2.7 percent, to $3.35 billion in March compared with $3.26 billion in the year-ago period.

For comparison, the value of all U.S. merchandise exports in March dropped 6.2 percent year-over-year, and exports by business rival Texas fell 9.2 percent.

California's merchandise exports through the first quarter of this year totaled $37.84 billion, down almost 6 percent from $40.2 billion amassed in the January-to-March period of 2015.

U.S. exports have wavered since last summer as the increasing value of the dollar made overseas purchases of U.S. goods comparatively pricey. Likewise, the economies of key trading partners have slowed down, and prices U.S. producers have been getting for commodities have fallen.

Jock O’Connell, Beacon’s international trade adviser, also noted that “there was the surge in seaport activity last year right after the late February 2015 settlement of a months-long longshore labor dispute that had seen export containers stacked up at the docks. That surge last year was particularly noticeable for agricultural exports.”

O’Connell added that Beacon expects California’s export trade to pick up soon due to a recently weakening dollar and improving economic conditions in key markets abroad.

On the import side, California took in $31.81 billion in March, down nearly 10 percent from $35.19 billion in March 2015. Some goods entering California go to other states, so exports are considered a more accurate measure of the state’s trade health.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover