That dollar amount reflects a -14.4% decrease from $34.6 billion four years earlier in 2018.
Year over year, the overall value of products from South Carolina flatlined via a -2.1% drop compared to $30.3 billion for 2020.
Looking ahead to 2022, the value of South Carolinian exports from January to August 2022 totaled $20.1 billion. The dollar sum of exports from South Carolina is projected to be an annualized $30.1 billion, rising 1.5% versus the $29.7 billion for 2021.
South Carolina ranks among America’s 20 most lucrative exporters by state behind front-runners including Texas, California, New York and Louisiana. The value of South Carolina’s exports equals 1.7% of the United States’ overall exported products for 2021. That percentage shows a decline from 2.1% in 2020.
Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), South Carolina’s exported products represent 11% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2021 ($270.1 billion in current dollars based on BEA statistics). The comparable percentage was 14.7% one year earlier.
Given South Carolina’s population of 5.191 million people, its total $29.7 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $5,700 for every resident in the Palmetto State. That dollar metric is less than the average $5,800 per capita during 2020.
South Carolina’s unemployment rate was 3.2% in September 2022, down from 5.1% at March 2021 per YCharts.
South Carolina’s Top 10 Exports
The following export products represent the highest dollar value in South Carolina global shipments during 2021. 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.
- Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): US$3.9 billion (14.5% of South Carolina’s total exports)
- Automobiles (both spark ignition and electric motors): $2.4 billion (8.1%)
- Large automobiles (diesel engine): $2.3 billion (7.7%)
- Aircraft, aircraft engines or other parts: $1 billion (3.4%)
- New rubber tires for specialty vehicles: $940.8 million (3.2%)
- Large automobiles (piston engine): $684 million (2.3%)
- Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $667.3 million (2.3%)
- Mid-sized automobiles (diesel engine): $549.5 million (1.9%)
- New rubber tires for buses, trucks: $390.5 million (1.3%)
- Chemical woodpulp, soda (coniferous): $342.5 million (1.2%)
South Carolina’s top 10 exports represent 45.8% of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.
The strongest grower among the state’s top 10 export categories was new rubber tires for buses and trucks via a 44% gain from 2020.
In second place were South Carolina’s exports of motor vehicle body parts or accessories (up 31.8%) ahead of automobiles with both spark ignition plus electric motors (up 24.7%) and chemical woodpulp (up 20.4%).
The leading decliners from 2020 to 2021 among South Carolina top 10 export products were aircraft including engines and other parts (down -74.8% from 2020).
More Key Facts about South Carolina’s International Trade
South Carolina incurred an overall -$12 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2021, expanding by 70.6% from a -$12 billion deficit 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 South Carolina’s top 10 import products highlighting the state’s highest spending on foreign-made goods in 2021.
- Uranium U235/plutonium compounds, mixtures: $1.196 billion (2.4% of South Carolina’s total imports)
- Hand tools with electric motors: $1.161 billion (2.3%)
- Spark-ignition reciprocating engines: $1.093 billion (2.2%)
- Miscellaneous motor vehicle parts: $1.034 billion (2.1%)
- Motor vehicle transmissions: $974.1 million (1.9%)
- Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $944.3 million (1.9%)
- Miscellaneous precious metal scrap: $775.7 million (1.5%)
- New rubber tires for cars: $633.4 million (1.3%)
- Drive axels for motor vehicles: $564.5 million (1.1%)
- Electrical boards and panels: $560.6 million (1.1%)
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.
South Carolina’s Major Trade Partners
The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchased almost three-quarters (72.4%) worth of the total value of products exported from South Carolina during 2021.
- China: US$4.6 billion (15.5% of South Carolina’s total exports)
- Germany: $4.59 billion (15.5%)
- Canada: $3.8 billion (13%)
- Mexico: $2.12 billion (7.1%)
- Belgium: $1.5 billion (5%)
- South Korea: $1.4 billion (4.7%)
- Japan: $1.025 billion (3.5%)
- United Kingdom: $984.8 million (3.3%)
- Australia: $780.4 million (2.6%)
- India: $649.2 million (2.2%)
South Carolina’s top trade partners in Asia (mainland China, South Korea, Japan and India) imported 25.8% of the overall value of exported goods from the Palmetto State. This compares with 20.1% for North American importers in Canada and Mexico, and 23.5% for top importers located in Europe.
South Carolinian 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.
- Domtar Corp (paper, paper goods)
- Resolute Forest Products (pulp/paper mill)
- ScanSource (security, networking, barcode, technology)
- Sonoco Products Co. (packaging products)
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 Minnesota’s Top 10 Exports, New Jersey’s Top 10 Exports, Missouri’s Top 10 Exports, Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Exports and Mississippi’s Top 10 Exports
Department of Numbers, South Carolina GDP (dollars shown in real terms). Accessed on October 24, 2022
FlagPictures.org, Flags of US States. Accessed on October 24, 2022
Forbes, 2018 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on October 24, 2022
GeoLounge, Fortune 1000 Companies List for 2018 , Fortune 1000 by State and Place. Accessed on October 24, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on October 24, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on October 24, 2022
United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts: South Carolina. Accessed on October 24, 2022
USA Trade Online, Official Source of Trade Statistics. Accessed on October 24, 2022
Wikipedia, Categories:Companies based in South Carolina. Accessed on October 24, 2022
Wikipedia, List of U.S. states and territories by GDP. Accessed on October 24, 2022
Wikipedia, South Carolina. Accessed on October 24, 2022
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