Export Boom Boosts Southeastern Economy

Monthly Labor Review, July 2012 | Go to article overview

Export Boom Boosts Southeastern Economy


During the massive recession of 2007-2009, which caused many global economies to stall, American exports fell drastically. However, in today's lackluster recovery, exports are a bright spot, making up close to half of the postrecession increase in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). According to the U.S. Commerce Department, in 2011 alone, U.S. exports of goods and services grew almost 14 percent to a record high of $2.1 trillion. The upturn in American exports was especially strong in the Southeast. With the Southeast's merchandise exports alone having grown by more than 20 percent in 2011, exports have been a boom to the regional economy.

What caused this rise in exports in the Southeast? In her article, "Out of the South: Exports Buoy Region's Economy," (EconSouth, second quarter 2012, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, www.frbatlanta.org/doc uments/pubs/econsouth/12q2_ exports.pdf), Lela Somoza examines the region's prosperous growth in exports.

In January 2010, the federal government embarked on the multi-agency National Export Initiative (NEI) with the ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports of goods and services by the end of 2014. Among other things, NEI strives to increase trade advocacy, improve credit access, and remove trade barriers.

The Southeast's export boom, which has become increasingly significant to the region's economy, is being fueled by many factors. In addition to government programs such as NEI, the Southeast has a long, accessible coastline and numerous ports, making the region well-suited for exporting goods to distant ports. And increasingly, those ports are in faraway emerging markets, enabling the Southeast to fill the wants and desires of an ever-expanding foreign middle class.

Even though Canada remains the largest importer of goods from the Southeast, exports from the region to Brazil and China have been growing especially rapidly. For example, Southeastern exports to China--including transportation equipment, paper, and agricultural products--grew by more than 120 percent in 4 years to nearly $17 billion. Listed in order of the dollar value of exports, the Southeast's largest export markets in 2011 were Canada, Mexico, China, Brazil and Japan.

Besides the obvious monetary benefit to firms, exports help create and support jobs. At least 20 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee exist because of exports. Notably, export-related jobs on average pay 13 to 18 percent more nationally than domestic-oriented industries, according to the Commerce Department.

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