Record March Exports Prove U.S. Manufacturing Is Alive and Well

by: Mark J. Perry
About a month ago, I reported on the record-high number of outbound export containers shipped in March from America's largest port in Los Angeles. That March surge in export containers from L.A. is now showing up in a record-high volume of U.S. exports in March, according to today's BEA report on international trade. Exports of U.S. goods and services in March reached a new all-time record monthly high of $172.7 billion, which was almost 15% higher than exports a year ago, and 4.6% above February's level. The increase in exports from February to March of 4.6% was the largest monthly increase in 17 years, since March 1994. March exports were also 4.2% above the cyclical high of $165.7 billion reached in July of 2008, before the before the worldwide recession caused U.S. exports to plunge by 25% in the 9-month period between July 2008 and April 2009 (see chart above).

Most of the gain in March exports came from the sale of U.S. goods (rather than services), which increased by 6.1% in March on a monthly basis and 18.7% on an annual basis. Almost all of our exported goods come from America's manufacturing sector (industrial supplies, capital goods, autos, and consumer goods), and the record high volume of exports provides further evidence that the U.S. manufacturing sector is leading the U.S. economy, and is benefitting from strong demand overseas and a weak U.S. dollar.

Exports of manufactured goods for: a) industrial supplies ($41.7 billion), b) capital goods ($39.9 billion) and c) autos ($11.6 billion), all reached record-high levels in March, with strong annual gains of 31.3%, 11.1% and 26.5% respectively.

Bottom Line: After years of hearing reports that the U.S. manufacturing sector was in decline and dying, today's report on record exports further proves that the manufacturing has come back to life and as is at the forefront of the U.S. economy and the recovery.