Nicknamed “The Golden State” stretching along America’s west coast within the Pacific Region, California shipped US$173.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount represents a -2.7% downtick from 2018 to 2019 but a 6.2% increase since 2016.
California is America’s second-biggest exporter by state behind Texas. The value of California’s exports equals 10.5% of United States’ overall exported products for 2019.
Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), California’s exported products represent an estimated 5.8% of the state’s total economic output ($2.998 trillion in real Gross Domestic Product for 2019). The latter real dollar values were expressed in 2009 chained dollars, according to the BEA.
Given California’s population of 39.5 million people, its total $173.3 billion in 2019 exported products translates to roughly $4,400 for every resident in “The Golden State”.
California’s unemployment rate was 3.9% at December 2019 down from 4.3% in April 2019, per YCharts.
California’s Top 10 Exports
The following export products represent the highest dollar value in California global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from California.
Figures are shown at the more granular six-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, for more precise product identification.
- Aircraft including engines, parts: US$7.2 billion (4.2% of California’s total exports)
- Electric vehicles: $7.1 billion (4.1%)
- Diamonds (unmounted): $4.6 billion (2.6%)
- Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $4.3 billion (2.5%)
- Shelled almonds: $3.6 billion (2.1%)
- Machinery for making semi-conductors: $3.6 billion (2.1%)
- Miscellaneous petroleum oils: $2.98 billion (1.7%)
- Integrated circuits (excluding processors/controllers): $2.95 billion (1.7%)
- Other composite diagnostic or laboratory reagents: $2.6 billion (1.5%)
- Medical/surgical instruments, appliances: $2.5 billion (1.4%)
California’s top 10 exports represent almost a quarter (23.9%) of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.
Electric vehicles became the fastest grower among California’s top 10 export categories, up by 141.4% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales were shelled almonds thanks to a 9.1% gain. Shipments of medical or surgical instruments and appliances posted the third-fastest improvement via a 7.9% increase in value.
Leading the decliners among California’s top 10 export products were machinery for making semi-conductors (down -22.6%), unmounted diamonds (down -16.5%) and integrated electronic circuits (down -12.2%) excluding processors and controllers.
More Key Facts
Overall, California incurred a -$267.8 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 2.1% year-over-year increase from -$262.4 billion in red ink in 2018.
Another way of saying surplus or deficit is positive or negative net exports. In a nutshell, the term “net exports” quantifies the amount by which foreign spending on a state’s goods or services exceeds or lags that same state’s spending on foreign goods or services.
Below are California’s top 10 import products highlighting the state’s highest spending on foreign-made goods in 2019.
- Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): $25.1 billion (6.1% of California’s total imports)
- Crude petroleum oils: $20.3 billion (5%)
- Small portable digital computers: $15.1 billion (3.7%)
- Cell phones: $11.8 billion (2.9%)
- Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $11.6 billion (2.8%)
- Computer parts and accessories: $8.3 billion (2%)
- Integrated circuits (processors/controllers): $6.3 billion (1.6%)
- Large automobiles (piston engine): $6.3 billion (1.6%)
- Digital processing units (individual components): $5.4 billion (1.3%)
- Miscellaneous petroleum oils: $5.4 billion (1.3%)
California has highly negative net exports in the international trade of automobiles, unprocessed petroleum oils, small portable digital computers, mobile phones and processors or controllers for integrated circuits. In turn, these cashflows indicate California’s strong competitive disadvantages under these product categories thus highlighting the strong impact of foreign-made goods on California’s global balance sheet.
The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchased about two-thirds (66.9%) worth of the total value of products exported from California during 2019.
- Mexico $27.8 billion (16% of California’s total exports)
- Canada $16.6 billion (9.6%)
- China $15.9 billion (9.1%)
- Japan $11.8 billion (6.8%)
- South Korea $9.2 billion (5.3%)
- Hong Kong $8.4 billion (4.9%)
- Taiwan $7.2 billion (4.2%)
- Germany $6.4 billion (3.7%)
- Netherlands $6.4 billion (3.7%)
- Belgium $6.3 billion (3.6%)
California’s top trade partners in North America, Canada and Mexico, account for roughly one-quarter (25.6%) of the overall value of exported goods from the state. This compares with 30.3% for top Asian countries that consume Californian exports (namely China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan).
California Export Companies
Fifty-three of California-headquartered corporations rank among America’s leading companies showcased in the Fortune 500 listing. Selected examples are listed below, sorted by highest revenues.
- Apple Inc. (computer hardware, software)
- McKesson Corporation (pharmaceuticals, medical technology)
- Chevron Corporation (petroleum, natural gas, petrochemicals)
- Wells Fargo (multinational financial services)
- Alphabet Inc (technology, autonomous cars, software)
- Intel Corporation (microprocessors, chips, mobile phones, flash memories)
- Hewlett-Packard (computer hardware, software)
- Cisco Systems (telecom equipment, networking hardware)
- Oracle (servers, workstations, storage devices, middleware)
- Gilead Sciences (pharmaceuticals, biotechnology products)
Shown within brackets for each company is a summary of the international trade-related product categories in which each business deals.
California’s capital city is Sacramento, nicknamed “The City of Trees” and “Sactown”.
See also America’s Top 20 Export States, United States Top 10 Exports and Top United States Trade Balances
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