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Tech picking up, at least according to airport figures

November 10, 2010 | 11:41 am

Sfo To measure the strength of the California economy, look no further than San Francisco International Airport. The airport, set in the hills near South San Francisco, is increasingly the jumping-off point for a large chunk of the state’s most valuable exports. It ships (by plane) high-tech electronic and medical equipment.

If tech is going to lead the state out of the recession, statistics from SFO indicate that a resurgence might be well underway. Exports from SFO in the first six months of the year totaled $10.3 billion, a 34.6% increase over the first half of 2009, according to Beacon Economics. Meanwhile, exports from the Port of Oakland, which travel by sea, totalled $4.5 billion, up 21.6% over the first half of last year.

That means manufacturers might need to start hiring new employees soon.

The main exports from SFO are medical instruments, pharmaceuticals and a lot of the high-value software and computer-processor chips made in Silicon Valley said Jock O’Connell, international trade expert at Beacon Economics. It’s good news that other countries are starting to demand these goods again.

“The Bay Area seems to be gathering itself up after the latest storm,” he said.

About half of trade overall in California, by value, goes by air, O’Connell said. That’s down from what it was in the dot-com boom. But the share is staring to grow again.

“The unemployment rates for the major Bay Area counties are all below the statewide rate, whereas L.A. County is slightly above that rate,” O'Connell said.

The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis also released national export data Wednesday morning. In case you were wondering, Americans’ interest in coin collecting seems to have skyrocketed in September. We imported $146 million of numismatic coins in September, double the amount we imported in August.

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: San Francisco International Airport. Credit: WKHarmon via Flickr