Kentucky ranks among America’s 25 biggest exporters by state behind front-runners including Texas, California, New York and Washington states. The value of Kentucky’s exports equals 1.7% of United States’ overall exported products for 2020.
Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Kentucky’s exported products represent 11.8% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2020 ($210 billion in current dollars based on BEA statistics).
Given Kentucky’s population of 4.497 million people, its total $24.8 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $5,500 for every resident in the Bluegrass State.
Kentucky’s unemployment rate was 5.2% at February 2021, up from 4.2% one year earlier per YCharts.
Kentucky’s Top 10 Exports
The following export products represent the highest dollar value in Kentucky global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Kentucky.
Figures are shown at the more granular six-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, for more precise product identification.
- Aircraft including engines, parts: US$7.7 billion (31% of Kentucky’s total exports)
- Antisera, other blood fractions: $1.1 billion (4.5%)
- Electro-diagnostic apparatus: $599 million (2.4%)
- Medium-size diesel-powered trucks: $527 million (2.1%)
- Large automobiles (piston engine): $386 million (1.6%)
- Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $336 million (1.4%)
- Whiskies: $319 million (1.3%)
- Composite diagnostic or laboratory reagents: $287 million (1.2%)
- Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): $278 million (1.1%)
- Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $263 million (1.1%)
Kentucky’s top 10 exports accounted for 47.7% of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.
Three of Kentucky’s major exports grew from 2019 to 2020 namely electro-diagnostic apparatus (up 223.8%), motor vehicle body parts or accessories (up 36.6%) and modems including similar reception or transmission devices (up 4.4%).
The leading decliners among Kentucky top 10 export products year over year were aircraft including engines and other parts (down -47.3%), mid-sized automobiles with piston engine (down -45.4%) and whiskies (down -34.8%).
More Key Facts
Overall, Kentucky incurred a -$30.2 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 26.6% year-over-year increase from the -$23.9 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 Kentucky’s top 10 import products highlighting the state’s highest spending on foreign-made goods in 2020.
- Immunological products for retail sale: $7.6 billion (13.9% of Kentucky’s total imports)
- Miscellaneous medications: $5.7 billion (10.3%)
- Turbo-jet parts: $1.9 billion (3.5%)
- Integrated circuits (processors/controllers): $1.8 billion (3.2%)
- Digital processing units (individual components): $1.4 billion (2.6%)
- Small portable digital computers: $1.1 billion (2%)
- Video game consoles, machines: $865 million (1.6%)
- Diesel engines: $831 million (1.5%)
- Computer parts and accessories: $761 million (1.4%)
- Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $614 million (1.1%)
Kentucky has highly negative net exports in the international trade of immunological products and miscellaneous medications. In turn, these cashflows indicate Kentucky’s competitive disadvantages under these product categories.
The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchased over three-quarters (78.9%) worth of the total value of products exported from Kentucky during 2020.
- Canada $6.6 billion (26.5% of Kentucky’s total exports)
- United Kingdom $2.5 billion (10.1%)
- Mexico $2.2 billion (8.7%)
- France $1.8 billion (7.1%)
- Brazil $1.7 billion (6.9%)
- China $1.5 billion (6.2%)
- Germany $1 billion (4.2%)
- Netherlands $930 million (3.8%)
- Japan $756 million (3.1%)
- Austria $577 million (2.3%)
Kentucky’s top trade partners in North America (Canada and Mexico) purchase 35.2% of the overall value of exported goods from the Bluegrass State. Another 27.5% goes to Europe led by importers in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.
Kentucky Export Companies
Nine of Kentucky-based corporations rank among Fortune 1000 Companies, a list that showcases America’s largest businesses. Selected examples are shown below.
- Brown-Forman Corp (whiskies, wine, other liquors)
- Tempur Sealy International (mattresses, bedding products)
- Lexmark International (laser printers, imaging products)
- General Cable Corporation (copper/aluminum/fiber optic cables)
- Ashland Inc (chemicals, plastics)
Shown within brackets for each company is a summary of the international trade-related products or services which each business sells.
Kentucky’s capital is Frankfort, a city that was originally called “Frank’s Ford” due to its location at a Kentucky River crossing place.
See also America’s Top 20 Export States, United States Top 10 Exports and Top United States Trade Balances
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