Washington's long run of rising exports came to an end last year. The rest of the Northwest did no better.
After rebounding from the Great Recession in 2010, U.S. exports have been mostly falling. But Washington and much of the Northwest had bucked the trend.
No more. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, state merchandise exports totaled $86.4 billion last year compared with $90.5 billion in 2014. It was the first time since 2009 that exports declined year over year.
Oregon’s goods exports fell back less severely, to a little more than $20 billion vs. $20.9 billion the previous year. Idaho dropped to $4.3 billion vs. $5.1 billion. Alaska exported $4.7 billion last year compared with $5.1 billion in 2014.
Washington’s exports still more than doubled from their 2005 levels, adjusted for inflation. Last year, China, Canada and Japan remained the state’s largest export markets but each saw a decline. Exports to No. 1 China totaled $19.5 billion vs. $20.7 billion in 2014.
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Nearly 63 percent of Washington’s exports consisted of “transportation equipment” — mostly airplanes and components. Agricultural products were nearly 11 percent. Washington held its spot as the third largest exporter among the states, after Texas and California.
Two of the biggest problems facing exporters are the strong dollar and ailing economies in China and many developing economies. But the larger slowdown predated China’s problems. Theories as to why range from globalization hitting a wall to a change in the composition of trade. University of Oregon economics professor Mark Thoma offers a thoughtful analysis here.
This raises another question: How much larger would Washington’s exports have been if global trade had been more robust?
Today’s Econ Haiku:
Want a soft landing?
Yellen set for turbulence
Better buckle up