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California exports jump again

June 10, 2010 |  1:12 pm

California exports rebounded again in April, jumping 21.8% from the same month last year and creating more confidence that export trade in the state is picking up. April was the sixth consecutive month of year-over-year increases, according to a Beacon Economics analysis of data released Thursday by the Commerce Department.

“For the time being, things look positive,” said Jock O’Connell, international trade advisor with Beacon Economics.

The state shipped $11.26 billion of electronics, agricultural products and other goods in April, up from $9.24 billion a year earlier. The increases were led by strong demand overseas for agricultural goods and non-manufactured products -- exports of those goods jumped 29.6%. Exports of manufactured products were up 18.8%.

Ports benefited from this traffic. The number of loaded shipping containers leaving the ports of L.A. and Long Beach was up 10% from a year earlier, although exports through the port of Oakland were essentially unchanged. Export tonnage at the state’s two primary international airports also grew in April, by 16.1% at LAX and by 37% at SFO.

But O’Connell worries that April’s growth may not last. The sovereign debt crisis in Europe has devalued the euro, forcing U.S. exports to compete with European goods whose prices have just, in essence, been slashed. And austerity measures adopted by governments in Europe are going to lead to less spending overall, he said.

“The financial fallout is causing governments and central banks to adopt more austerity measures, which is likely to retard economic growth around the world,” O’Connell said.

Imports are recovering in California -- the state imported $25.92 billion worth of goods in April, up from $19.9 billion a year earlier. California made up about 11% of the share of U.S. exports this April, down from 11.7% in December 2009, Beacon said.

Mexico receives the most exports from the state -- $1.9 billion worth in March, according to a Beacon analysis of trade data. Canada, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan are the next five top export partners. Trade to Mexico is recovering this year after plummeting to just $1.2 billion worth of goods in February 2009.

Electronics California’s electric machinery exports seem to be recovering -- rising to $2.3 billion in March after sinking to $1.6 billion in January 2009. Industrial machinery and computer exports are also recovering from a plunge. The state exported $1.9 billion worth of those goods in March, up from $1.6 billion a year earlier.

Electric machinery and industrial machinery/computers are the top two state exports, by dollar value. They’re followed by industrial machinery and computers; optic, photo and medical equipment; and precious stones, metals and pearls.

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: Electronics are a top California export. Credit: Electronica Pascual via Flickr