Year over year, the overall value of exported Californian exported products grew by 12.2% compared to $155.9 billion during 2020.
Looking forward to 2022, the value of California’s exports from January to August 2022 totaled $124.5 billion. Total Californian exports in 2022 are estimated to be on track for an annualized $186.8 billion, up by 6.8% compared to the $174.9 billion for 2021.
California is America’s second-biggest exporter by state behind oil-rich Texas. The value of California’s exports equals 10% of the United States’ overall exported product sales for 2021.
Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), California’s exported products represent an estimated 5.6% of the state’s total economic output or nominal Gross Domestic Product in 2021 ($3.133 trillion in US dollars based on nominal GDP statistics).
Given California’s population of 39.2 million people, its total $174.9 billion in 2021 exported products translates to roughly $4,500 for every resident in “The Golden State”.
California’s unemployment rate was 4.1% at August 2022 down from 7% in one year earlier, per YCharts.
California’s Top 10 Exports
The following export products represent the highest dollar value in California global shipments during 2021. 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.
- Machinery for making semi-conductors: $6.2 billion (3.6% of California’s total exports)
- Aircraft including engines, parts: $5.5 billion (3.2%)
- Diamonds (unmounted): $4.5 billion (2.6%)
- Integrated circuits (excluding processors/controllers): $4.2 billion (2.4%)
- Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $4.05 billion (2.3%)
- Machinery parts or accessories for making semi-conductors: $3.9 billion (2.2%)
- Other composite diagnostic or laboratory reagents: $3.7 billion (2.1%)
- Electric vehicles: US$3.46 billion (2%)
- Computer parts and accessories: $3.44 billion (2%)
- Shelled almonds $3.3 billion (1.9%)
California’s top 10 exports represent almost a quarter (24.2%) of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.
Diamonds became the fastest grower among California’s top 10 export categories, up by 40.5% from 2020 to 2021. In second place for improving export sales were computer parts and accessories thanks to a 39.2% gain. Shipments of miscellaneous composite diagnostic or laboratory reagents posted the third-fastest improvement via a 29.7% increase in value.
There was a pair of decliners among California’s top 10 export products namely electric vehicles (down -39.4%) and fresh or dried shelled almonds (down -1.7%).
More Key Facts about California’s Exports
Overall, California incurred a -$295.4 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2021. That dollar amount reflects a 23.1% year-over-year expansion from -$239.9 billion in red ink in 2020.
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 2020.
- Small portable digital computers: $20.4 billion (4.3% of California’s total imports)
- Crude petroleum oils: $19.8 billion (4.2%)
- Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): $18.9 billion (4%)
- Computer parts and accessories: $14.2 billion (3%)
- Cell phones: $9.96 billion (2.1%)
- Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $9.6 billion (2%)
- Digital processing units (individual components): $8.4 billion (1.8%)
- Wheeled toys including scooters: $6.8 billion (1.4%)
- Large automobiles (piston engine): $6.74 billion (1.4%)
- Miscellaneous reception equipment including for television: $6.72 billion (1.4%)
California has highly negative net exports in the international trade of automobiles, small portable digital computers, crude petroleum and computer parts or accessories. 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.
California’s Major Trading Partners
The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchased over two-thirds (69.4%) worth of the total value of products exported from California during 2021.
- Mexico $27.2 billion (15.6% of California’s total exports)
- Canada $18 billion (10.3%)
- China $16.6 billion (9.5%)
- Japan $11.8 billion (6.7%)
- South Korea $11.6 billion (6.6%)
- Taiwan $8.96 billion (5.1%)
- Germany $7.6 billion (4.3%)
- Hong Kong $6.8 billion (3.9%)
- India $6.7 billion (3.8%)
- Netherlands $6.1 billion (3.5%)
California’s top trade partners in North America, Canada and Mexico, account for over one-quarter (25.9%) of the overall value of exported goods from the state. This compares with 35.7% for top Asian countries that consume Californian exports (namely China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and India).
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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