U.S. Exports, Total Trade Reach Record Highs

by: Mark J. Perry

The total volume of U.S. international trade activity (exports + imports) reached an all-time record high in September (not adjusted for inflation, BEA report here) of $404 billion, slightly higher than the previous record of $401 billion in July 2011 (see top chart above). Compared to the recession-related, cyclical low of $277 billion of trade activity in May 2009, there has been a 46% increase in U.S. trade, as the U.S. and world economies have gradually recovered from the 2008-2009 recession.

The September volume of exports ($180.3 billion) was the highest monthly export volume in history (not adjusted for inflation, see bottom chart), a further sign that a recovery in worldwide economic conditions has increased demand for U.S. products. There was an overall monthly increase of 1.4% for shipments of U.S. exports in September, including increases in industrial supplies (3.2%), capital goods (0.3%) automobiles (1.7%) and an especially strong gain in consumer goods (5.3%).