California is America’s second-biggest exporter by state behind Texas. The value of California’s exports equals 10.9% of United States’ overall exported products for 2020.
Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), California’s exported products represent an estimated 5% of the state’s total economic output ($3.132 trillion in real Gross Domestic Product one year earlier for 2019).
Given California’s population of 39.8 million people, its total $156.1 billion in 2020 exported products translates to roughly $3,920 for every resident in “The Golden State”.
California’s unemployment rate was 9% at December 2020, down from 16.3% at May 2020 per YCharts.
California’s Top 10 Exports
The following export products represent the highest dollar value in California global shipments during 2020. 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.
- Electric vehicles: US$5.7 billion (3.6% of California’s total exports)
- Aircraft including engines, parts: $5 billion (3.2%)
- Machinery for making semi-conductors: $4.8 billion (3.1%)
- Integrated circuits (excluding processors/controllers): $3.9 billion (2.5%)
- Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $3.8 billion (2.4%)
- Shelled almonds $3.4 billion (2.2%)
- Diamonds (unmounted): $3.20 billion (2%)
- Machinery for making semi-conductor parts or accessories: $3.02 billion (1.9%)
- Other composite diagnostic or laboratory reagents $2.9 billion (1.8%)
- Computer parts and accessories: $2.5 billion (1.6%)
California’s top 10 exports represent roughly a quarter (24.3%) of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.
Machinery for making semi-conductors became the fastest grower among California’s top 10 export categories, up by 34.7% from 2019 to 2020. In second place for improving export sales were integrated circuits excluding processors and controllers thanks to a 30.8% gain. Shipments of machinery for making semi-conductor parts or accessories posted the third-fastest improvement via a 24.2% increase in value.
Leading the decliners among California’s top 10 export products were aircraft including engines and parts (down -30.6%), unmounted diamonds (down -30.2%) and electric vehicles (down -21%).
More Key Facts
Overall, California incurred a -$239.9 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 2.4% year-over-year expansion from -$234.3 billion in red ink in 2019.
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.
- Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): $19.8 billion (5% of California’s total imports)
- Small portable digital computers: $18.7 billion (4.7%)
- Computer parts and accessories: $11.4 billion (2.9%)
- Crude petroleum oils: $10.8 billion (2.7%)
- Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $10.5 billion (2.6%)
- Digital processing units (individual components): $9.3 billion (2.4%)
- Cell phones: $8.5 billion (2.1%)
- Miscellaneous textile items: $8.1 billion (2%)
- Solid state semi-conductor storage devices: $5.71 billion (1.4%)
- Large automobiles (piston engine): $5.5 billion (1.4%)
California has highly negative net exports in the international trade of automobiles, small portable digital computers, computer parts or accessories and crude petroleum. 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 (68%) worth of the total value of products exported from California during 2020.
- Mexico $24.1 billion (15.4% of California’s total exports)
- Canada $15.9 billion (10.2%)
- China $15 billion (9.6%)
- Japan $10.7 billion (6.8%)
- South Korea $9.8 billion (6.3%)
- Taiwan $7.4 billion (4.7%)
- Germany $6.5 billion (4.1%)
- Hong Kong $6.3 billion (4.1%)
- Netherlands $5.7 billion (3.6%)
- India $5 billion (3.2%)
California’s top trade partners in North America, Canada and Mexico, account for roughly one-quarter (25.6%) of the overall value of exported goods from the state. This compares with 34.7% for top Asian countries that consume Californian exports (namely China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan).
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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