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California export trade improves slightly in September

November 13, 2009 | 11:11 am

Shipping Many economists use California's export trade as a gauge of the state's rebound potential.

According to September's numbers, we still have a long way to go.

Merchandise export trade, at $10.35 billion in September, was up 3.2% from August, but still down 16.3% from the same month last year, according to an analysis of Commerce Department data released by the University of California Center  Sacramento today. 

"September's figures represent modest progress in growing California's export trade," said Jock O'Connell, international trade and economics advisor at the University of California Center.

Agricultural exports fared better than those of manufactured goods, with total ag shipments declining 8.2% from last year. Almond exports in particular are quite healthy, O'Connell said.

Exports of manufactured goods, on the other hand, were down 19.3% from September 2008, indicating that California's days as a manufacturing center are continuing to slip away, O'Connell said.

"It's a long-term process as California becomes less and less dependent on manufacturing facilities," he said.

Two bright notes in the data: Airborne exports were up 1.3% over last year at LAX. And the number of loaded containers sailing from the port of Oakland was up 12.5% from last year.

Overall, the data "suggest that Northern California may be turning the corner faster than Southern California," O'Connell said.

California exports have totaled $86.5 billion in 2009, down 22.3% from the first nine months of 2008.

-- Alana Semuels