North Carolina’s Top 10 Exports

North Carolina state flag courtesy of

North Carolina state flag

Nicknamed “Old North State” and “Tar Heel State” located in America’s southeastern region, North Carolina shipped US$32.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 0.3% increase from 2017 to 2018 and an 8.4% gain since 2015.

North Carolina is America’s fifteenth-biggest exporter by state behind front-runners including Texas, California, New York and Washington states. The value of North Carolina’s exports equals 2% of United States’ overall exported products for 2018.

Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), North Carolina’s exported products represent 5.7% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2018 ($575.6 billion in current dollars based on BEA statistics).

Given North Carolina’s population of 10.384 million people, its total $32.7 billion in 2018 exported goods translates to roughly $3,200 for every resident in the Old North State.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate was 4% at April 2019 down from 4.5% as of March 2018, per YCharts.

North Carolina’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export products represent the highest dollar value in North Carolina global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from North Carolina.

Figures are shown at the more granular six-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, for more precise product identification.

  1. Aircraft including engines, parts: US$2 billion (6% of North Carolina’s total exports)
  2. Miscellaneous medications: $1.2 billion (3.7%)
  3. Immunological products in measured doses: $930 million (2.8%)
  4. Chemical woodpulp (coniferous): $814 million (2.5%)
  5. Antisera, other blood fractions: $611 million (1.9%)
  6. Unmanufactured tobacco: $580 million (1.8%)
  7. Miscellaneous aircraft parts: $573 million (1.8%)
  8. Bombs, mines: $531 million (1.6%)
  9. Diesel engines: $438 million (1.3%)
  10. Pork cuts (frozen): $382 million (1.2%)

North Carolina’s top 10 exports accounted for 26.5% of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.

Frozen pork cuts were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 30.8% from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving export sales were aircraft including engines and other parts thanks to a 27.7% rise.

North Carolina’s shipments of diesel engines posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 24.8%.

The leading decliner among North Carolina’s top 10 export products were antisera and other blood fractions which retreated -42.8% year over year.

More Key Facts

Overall, North Carolina incurred a -$20.7 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 40.5% year-over-year increase from -$14.7 billion in red ink for 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 North Carolina’s top 10 import products highlighting the state’s highest spending on foreign-made goods in 2018.

  1. Digital processing units (individual components): $2.5 billion (4.7% of North Carolina’s total imports)
  2. Turbo-jet parts: $2 billion (3.7%)
  3. Small portable digital computers: $1.4 billion (2.6%)
  4. Miscellaneous medications: $867 million (1.6%)
  5. T-shirts, vests (knitted cotton): $848 million (1.6%)
  6. Cotton knit sweaters, pullovers: $836 million (1.6%)
  7. Amino-alcohol/acid-phenol with oxygen: $786 million (1.5%)
  8. Unknit cotton men’s trousers: $686 million (1.3%)
  9. Miscellaneous motor vehicle parts: $628 million (1.2%)
  10. Manmade fibers knit sweaters, pullovers: $533 million (1%)

North Carolina has highly negative net exports in the international trade of components of digital processors, turbo-jet parts, small portable digital computers and miscellaneous medications. In turn, these cashflows indicate North Carolina’s competitive disadvantages under these product categories.


The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchased roughly two-thirds (65.9%) worth of the total value of products exported from North Carolina during 2018.

  1. Canada $6.6 billion (20.2% of North Carolina’s total exports)
  2. Mexico $3.8 billion (11.5%)
  3. China $2.3 billion (7.1%)
  4. France $1.9 billion (5.8%)
  5. Japan $1.6 billion (4.9%)
  6. Saudi Arabia $1.4 billion (4.3%)
  7. Netherlands $1.05 billion (3.2%)
  8. Germany $1.02 billion (3.1%)
  9. United Kingdom $970 million (3%)
  10. Belgium $904 million (2.8%)

North Carolina’s top trade partners in North America, Canada and Mexico, account for almost a third (31.7%) of the overall value of exported goods from the state. That percentage compares with 17.9% for North Carolina’s top customers in Europe (France, Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, Belgium).


North Carolina Export Companies

Twenty-one of North Carolina-based corporations rank among Fortune 1000 Companies, a list that showcases America’s largest businesses. Selected examples are shown below.

  • Alliance One International (tobacco)
  • Curtiss-Wright Corp (motors, generators, instruments, sensors)
  • Coca-Cola Bottling Co. (beverages)
  • SPX Corp (infrastructure equipment, industrial conglomerate)
  • Martin Marietta (construction materials)
  • Sealed Air Corp (bubble wrap, food packaging)
  • Reynolds American, Inc (tobacco)
  • VF Corp (footwear, apparel)
  • Duke Energy (electricity, natural gas)
  • Lowe’s Companies (appliances, home improvement goods)

Shown within brackets for each company is a summary of the international trade-related products or services which each business sells.


North Carolina’s capital is Raleigh, nicknamed “City of Oaks”.

See also America’s Top 20 Export States, United States Top 10 Exports and Top United States Trade Balances

Research Sources:
Department of Numbers, North Carolina GDP (dollars shown in real terms). Accessed on June 17, 2019, Flags of US States. Accessed on June 17, 2019

Forbes, 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 17, 2019

GeoLounge, Fortune 1000 Companies List for 2016 , Fortune 1000 by State and Place. Accessed on June 17, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 17, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 17, 2019

United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade (State by 6-Digit HS Code). Accessed on June 17, 2019

United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts: North Carolina. Accessed on June 17, 2019

Wikipedia, Companies based in North Carolina. Accessed on June 17, 2019

Wikipedia, List of U.S. states and territories by GDP. Accessed on June 17, 2019

Wikipedia, North Carolina. Accessed on June 17, 2019

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Raleigh, United States. Accessed on June 17, 2019

YCharts, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Report. Accessed on June 17, 2019