California is America’s biggest imports-spending state well ahead of Texas, Michigan, Illinois and New York. The value of California’s imports equals 16.9% of the overall value of goods imported into the United States of during 2020, up from 16.3% one year earlier.
Based on California’s population of 39.8 million people, its total $396 billion in 2020 imports translates to roughly $9,955 for every consumer living in “The Golden State”.
Another key economic indicator, California’s unemployment rate was 9% at December 2020, down from 16.3% at May 2020 per YCharts.
California’s Top 10 Imports
The following import products represent the highest dollar value in California’s international purchases during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each import category represents in terms of overall imports into California.
Figures are shown at the more granular six-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, for more precise product identification.
- 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%)
- Color TV reception equipment: $4.9 billion (1.2%)
- Wheeled toys (tricycles, scooters, pedal cars, doll carriages): $4.8 billion (1.2%)
- Small automobiles (piston engine): $4.4 billion (1.1%)
- Integrated circuits (processors/controllers): $4.2 billion (1.1%)
- Computer data storage units: $3.9 billion (1%)
California’s top 15 imports represented almost a third (32.8%) of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.
Year over year, the imported products that appreciated the most in cost from 2019 to 2020 were miscellaneous textile items (up 657.9%), individual components of digital processing units (up 72.4%), solid state semi-conductor storage devices (up 51.6%), computer parts or accessories (up 37.3%) then color television reception equipment (up 26.3%).
Leading the decliners among Californian top 15 import products were imported crude petroleum (down -46.9%), processors and controllers for integrated circuits (down -33.5%), cell phones (down -33.5%), mid-sized automobiles with piston engine (down -21.2%) then large automobiles with piston engine (down -13.7%).
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 export products highlighting the state’s highest revenue makers from international sales during 2020.
- 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%)
In contrast to the above listed items, California has notably negative net imports in the international trade of automobiles, small portable digital computers, mobile phones and crude oil. In turn, these cashflows indicate California’s strong competitive disadvantages under these product categories thus highlighting the strong impact of foreign-made automotive goods, hardware and unprocessed petroleum on California’s global balance sheet.
The following list shows the top 10 countries that supply about four-fifths (80.4%) worth of the total value of products imported into California during 2020.
- China $130.3 billion (32.9% of California’s total imports)
- Mexico $47.9 billion (12.1%)
- Canada $26.5 billion (6.7%)
- South Korea $21.1 billion (5.3%)
- Japan $20.4 billion (5.1%)
- Vietnam $20.2 billion (5.1%)
- Taiwan $20 billion (5%)
- Thailand $12.2 billion (3.1%)
- Malaysia $10.6 billion (2.7%)
- Germany $9.6 billion (2.4%)
California’s top trade partners in North America, Canada and Mexico, account for 18.8% of the overall value of imported goods into the state. This compares with well over half (59.2%) for top Asian countries that furnish products to Californian importers.
California Import Companies
Fifty-three of California-headquartered corporations rank among America’s leading companies showcased on 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 for the main industry in which each business operates.
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 Imports and Top United States Trade Balances
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