Nicknamed “The Golden State” stretching along America’s west coast within the Pacific Region, California shipped US$178.4 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount represents a 3.7% uptick from 2017 to 2018 and a 7.9% increase since 2015.
California is America’s second-biggest exporter by state behind Texas. The value of California’s exports equals 10.7% of United States’ overall exported products for 2018.
Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), California’s exported products represent 6.6% of the state’s total economic output ($2.7 trillion in real Gross Domestic Product for 2018). The latter real dollar values were expressed in 2009 chained dollars, according to the BEA.
Given California’s population of 39.6 million people, its total $178.4 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $4,500 for every resident in “The Golden State”.
California’s unemployment rate was 4.3% as of April 2019 per YCharts.
California’s Top 10 Exports
The following export products represent the highest dollar value in California global shipments during 2018. 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: $7.3 billion (4.1% of California’s exports)
- Diamonds (unmounted): $5.5 billion (3.1%)
- Machinery for making semi-conductors: $4.6 billion (2.6%)
- Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $4.6 billion (2.6%)
- Integrated circuits (excluding processors/controllers): $3.4 billion (1.9%)
- Shelled almonds: $3.3 billion (1.9%)
- Computer parts and accessories: $3.2 billion (1.8%)
- Electric vehicles: $3 billion (1.7%)
- Miscellaneous petroleum oils: $2.8 billion (1.6%)
- Semi-conductor machines parts, accessories: $2.6 billion (1.4%)
California’s top 10 exports represent almost a quarter (22.7%) of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.
Parts and accessories for semi-conductor machines became the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 31.2% from 2017 to 2018.
In second place for improving export sales was computer parts and accessories which rose 27.1%.
Shipments of miscellaneous petroleum oils posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 15.6%, beating the 11.9% year-over-year increase for unmounted diamonds.
Two among California’s top 10 export products declined, namely integrated circuits excluding processors and controllers (down -8.6%) and machinery for making semi-conductors (down -7.6%).
More Key Facts
Overall, California incurred a -$262.8 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -2.2% year-over-year decrease from -$268.6 billion in red ink in 2017.
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 2018.
- Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): $29.8 billion (6.7% of California’s total imports)
- Crude petroleum oils: $24.3 billion (5.5%)
- Small portable digital computers: $17.4 billion (3.9%)
- Cell phones: $13.8 billion (3.1%)
- Computer parts and accessories: $13 billion (3%)
- Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $12.6 billion (2.9%)
- Large automobiles (piston engine): $9.4 billion (2.1%)
- Integrated circuits (processors/controllers): $9.1 billion (2.1%)
- Small automobiles (piston engine): $5.6 billion (1.3%)
- Solid-state semiconductor storage devices: $4.7 billion (1.1%)
California has highly negative net exports in the international trade of automobiles, 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 over two-thirds (69.3%) worth of the total value of products exported from California during 2018.
- Mexico $30.7 billion (17.2% of California’s total exports)
- Canada $17.8 billion (9.9%)
- China $16.3 billion (9.2%)
- Japan $13.1 billion (7.3%)
- South Korea $9.9 billion (5.6%)
- Hong Kong $9.9 billion (5.6%)
- Taiwan $6.8 billion (3.8%)
- Germany $6.6 billion (3.7%)
- Netherlands $6.4 billion (3.6%)
- India $6.1 billion (3.4%)
California’s top trade partners in North America, Canada and Mexico, account for over one-quarter (27.2%) of the overall value of exported goods from the state. This compares with more than a third (34.9%) for top Asian countries that consume Californian exports.
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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