Nicknamed “The Palmetto State” and found in America’s southeastern region, South Carolina shipped US$41.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 19.7% increase from 2018 to 2019 and a 32.3% gain since 2016.
South Carolina ranks among America’s 15 biggest exporters by state behind front-runners including Texas, California, New York and Washington states. The value of South Carolina’s exports equals 2.5% of United States’ overall exported products for 2019.
Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), South Carolina’s exported products represent 19.4% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2019 ($213.5 billion in current dollars based on BEA statistics).
Given South Carolina’s population of 5.149 million people, its total $41.5 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $8,000 for every resident in the Palmetto State.
South Carolina’s unemployment rate was 2.5% at February 2020 down from 4.4% as of March 2019, per YCharts.
South Carolina’s Top 10 Exports
The following export products represent the highest dollar value in South Carolina global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from South Carolina.
Figures are shown at the more granular six-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, for more precise product identification.
- Aircraft including engines, parts: US$12.4 billion (29.9% of South Carolina’s total exports)
- Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): $4.7 billion (11.4%)
- Large automobiles (diesel engine): $3.2 billion (7.7%)
- Mid-sized automobiles (diesel engine): $1.2 billion (3%)
- New rubber tires for specialty vehicles: $972 million (2.3%)
- Machinery or mechanical appliance parts: $683 million (1.6%)
- Motor vehicle transmissions: $562 million (1.4%)
- Large automobiles (piston engine): $550 million (1.3%)
- Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $544 million (1.3%)
- Car tires (rubber, pneumatic): $446 million (1.1%)
South Carolina’s top 10 exports approach two-thirds (61%) of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.
Aircraft including engines and other parts represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 56.8% from 2018 to 2019. Close behind in second place for improving export sales were motor vehicle body parts and accessories via a 56.3% gain. South Carolina’s shipments of mid-sized automobiles powered by piston engine posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 54.4%.
The leading decliner among South Carolina top 10 export products were large automobiles powered by piston engines. which retreated -41.4% year over year.
More Key Facts
Overall, South Carolina incurred a -$850,000 deficit exporting and importing products during 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -84.5% year-over-year reduction from -$5.6 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 South Carolina’s top 10 import products highlighting the state’s highest spending on foreign-made goods in 2019.
- Uranium U235/plutonium compounds, mixtures: $958 million (2.3% of South Carolina’s total imports)
- Miscellaneous motor vehicle parts: $819 million (1.9%)
- Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $687 million (1.6%)
- Large spark-ignition engines: $651 million (1.5%)
- Motor vehicle transmissions: $639 million (1.5%)
- Car tires (rubber, pneumatic): $616 million (1.5%)
- Hand tools with electric motors: $585 million (1.4%)
- Miscellaneous aircraft parts: $562 million (1.3%)
- Wirings (vehicle, aircraft): $537 million (1.3%)
- Unroasted caffeinated coffee: $510 million (1.2%)
South Carolina has negative net exports in the international trade of uranium U235/plutonium compounds and mixtures. In turn, these cashflows indicate South Carolina’s competitive disadvantages under this product category.
The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchased about two-thirds (67%) worth of the total value of products exported from South Carolina during 2019.
- China: $6.5 billion (15.7% of South Carolina’s total exports)
- Germany: $4.5 billion (10.8%)
- Canada: $4 billion (9.6%)
- United Arab Emirates: $2.4 billion (5.7%)
- Japan: $2.3 billion (5.5%)
- Mexico: $2.2 billion (5.3%)
- United Kingdom: $2.1 billion (5%)
- Singapore: $1.4 billion (3.3%)
- Belgium: $1.29 billion (3.1%)
- Taiwan: $1.25 billion (3%)
South Carolina’s top trade partners in Asia (China, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan) consume 33.2% of the overall value of exported goods from the Palmetto State. This compares with 14.9% for North American importers in Canada and Mexico.
South Carolina Export Companies
Five of South Carolina-based corporations rank among Fortune 1000 Companies, a list that showcases America’s largest businesses. Selected examples of companies headquartered or operationally based in South Carolina are shown below.
- ScanSource (security, networking, barcode, technology)
- Resolute Forest Products (pulp/paper mill)
- Sonoco Products Co. (packaging products)
- Domtar Corp (paper, paper goods)
Shown within brackets for each company is a summary of the international trade-related products or services which each business sells.
South Carolina’s capital is Columbia, a city nicknamed “Cola” and “The Capital of Southern Hospitality”.
See also America’s Top 20 Export States, United States Top 10 Exports and Top United States Trade Balances
Department of Numbers, South Carolina GDP (dollars shown in real terms). Accessed on April 8, 2020
FlagPictures.org, Flags of US States. Accessed on April 8, 2020
Forbes, 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 8, 2020
GeoLounge, Fortune 1000 Companies List for 2016 , Fortune 1000 by State and Place. Accessed on April 8, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 8, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 8, 2020
United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade (State by 6-Digit HS Code). Accessed on April 8, 2020
United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts: South Carolina. Accessed on April 8, 2020
Wikipedia, Categories:Companies based in South Carolina. Accessed on April 8, 2020
Wikipedia, List of U.S. states and territories by GDP. Accessed on April 8, 2020
Wikipedia, South Carolina. Accessed on April 8, 2020
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Columbia, United States. Accessed on April 8, 2020
YCharts, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Report. Accessed on April 8, 2020