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$32.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount represents a 7.9% uptick from 2016 to 2017 and a 3.6% gain since 2014.

North Carolina is America’s fifteenth-biggest exporter by state behind front-runners Texas, California, Washington and New York state. The value of North Carolina’s exports equals 2.1% of United States’ overall exported products for 2017.

Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), North Carolina’s exported products represent 7.2% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2016. The latter real dollar values were expressed in 2009 chained dollars, according to the BEA.

Given North Carolina’s population of 10.273 million people, its total $32.6 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $3,200 for every resident in the Old North State.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate was 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 2017. 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$1.5 billion (4.7% of North Carolina’s total exports)
  2. Immunological products in measured doses: $1.5 billion (4.5%)
  3. Medications in measured doses (retail-packaged): $1.2 billion (3.5%)
  4. Antisera, other blood fractions: $1.1 billion (3.3%)
  5. Bombs, mines: $805 million (2.5%)
  6. Chemical woodpulp (coniferous): $770 million (2.4%)
  7. Unmanufactured tobacco: $616 million (1.9%)
  8. Miscellaneous aircraft parts: $523 million (1.6%)
  9. Diesel engines: $350 million (1.1%)
  10. Cotton yarn: $341 million (1%)

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

Bombs and mines were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 259.4% from 2016.

In second place for improving export sales was diesel engines which rose 42.3%.

North Carolina’s shipments of coniferous chemical woodpulp posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 16.8%.

The leading decliner among North Carolina top 10 export products were miscellaneous aircraft parts which retreated -47.4% year over year.

More Key Facts

Overall, North Carolina incurred a -$14.8 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2017. That dollar amount reflects a -12.1% year-over-year decrease from -$16.9 billion in red ink in 2016.

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 2017.

  1. Turbo-jet parts: $1.7 billion (3.7% of North Carolina’s total imports)
  2. Miscellaneous medications: $1.4 billion (3%)
  3. Small portable digital computers: $1.3 billion (2.7%)
  4. Immunological products in measured doses: $1 billion (2.2%)
  5. T-shirts, vests (knitted cotton): $805 million (1.7%)
  6. Cotton trousers: $668 million (1.4%)
  7. Cotton sweaters, pullovers: $583 million (1.2%)
  8. Miscellaneous motor vehicle parts: $558 million (1.2%)
  9. Brassieres: $486 million (1%)
  10. Insulated optical fiber cables: $477 million (1%)

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


The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchase 66.1% worth of the total value of products exported from North Carolina during 2017.

  1. Canada $6.6 billion (20.2% of North Carolina’s total exports)
  2. Mexico $3.6 billion (10.9%)
  3. China $2.4 billion (7.2%)
  4. Saudi Arabia $1.7 billion (5.1%)
  5. Japan $1.6 billion (4.8%)
  6. France $1.4 billion (4.4%)
  7. United Kingdom $1.3 billion (4.1%)
  8. Germany $1.1 billion (3.4%)
  9. Ireland $1 billion (3.1%)
  10. Netherlands $931 million (2.9%)

North Carolina’s top trade partners in North America, Canada and Mexico, account for almost a third (31.1%) of the overall value of exported goods from the state.


North Carolina Export Companies

Twenty-one of North Carolina-based corporations rank among Fortune 1000 Companies in 2017, 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 May 3, 2018, Flags of US States. Accessed on May 3, 2018

Forbes, 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 3, 2018

GeoLounge, Fortune 1000 Companies List for 2016 , Fortune 1000 by State and Place. Accessed on May 3, 2018

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 3, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 3, 2018

United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade (State by 6-Digit HS Code). Accessed on May 3, 2018

United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts: North Carolina. Accessed on May 3, 2018

Wikipedia, North Carolina. Accessed on May 3, 2018

Wikipedia, Companies based in North Carolina. Accessed on May 3, 2018

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Raleigh, United States. Accessed on May 3, 2018

YCharts, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Report. Accessed on May 3, 2018