Export Nation 2012: How U.S. Metropolitan Areas Are Driving National Growth

The Great Recession reset the world economic map. Suddenly, with the bulk of the world’s economic growth transferred beyond the borders of a recession-mired West and into emerging markets, American metropolitan areas and the nation as a whole were left to cast about for new sources of growth. For current Export Nation data, see the Export Nation 2013 interactive.



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Specifically, U.S. export sales grew by more than 11 percent in 2010 in real terms, the fastest growth since 1997. In terms of job creation, the number of U.S. total export-supported jobs increased by almost 6 percent in 2010, even as the overall economy was still losing jobs.

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Taken together, the largest 100 metro areas produced almost 65 percent of U.S. export sales in 2010, three-quarters of the nation’s service export sales and 63 percent of manufacturing export sales. The largest 100 metropolitan areas produced the majority of export sales in 30 states in 2010. Export sales from Midwestern metro areas generated the fastest growth in direct export-production jobs.

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Canada and Mexico remain the largest export markets for the United States, with one-quarter of the U.S. goods and service exports sold to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) trading partners in 2010. From 2003 to 2008, the share of U.S. exports going to Brazil, India and China (the so-called BIC countries) increased by 3 percentage points and by another 2 percentage points in just the two years from 2008 to 2010. Metropolitan areas that produce what emerging markets consume are better-positioned to take advantage of the growth in these countries.

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Comprising about 61 percent of U.S. exports, manufacturing industries produced three-quarters of the nation’s additional sales abroad between 2009 and 2010. The rapid growth in manufacturing exports led 11 metropolitan areas to achieve 2009–2010 export growth rates that, should they continue, would double their exports in five years.

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U.S. service exports such as education, telecommunications services, and business services grew in both 2009 and 2010. The largest 100 metropolitan areas produced more than 75 percent of these high–value–added service exports.

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View the interactive map for export data about your metropolitan area »

Such a search for growth is why, in the months after the crash, a chorus of business leaders and economists called for a new emphasis on exports in a “rebalanced” American economy. It is why, too, that President Obama — recognizing the power of exports to help reorient the American economy after the recession — launched the National Export Initiative (NEI) in March 2010, with the goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.

And it is also why the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings published in summer 2010 the initial edition of Export Nation — a first-of-its-kind analysis of both goods and services exports at the metropolitan level in the United States during the period from 2003 to 2008. That report provided a new “bottom-up” view of the U.S. export enterprise as well as a new view of how individual regions link to other nations.

This second edition of Export Nation updates and builds upon the results of the first analysis to examine changes across the metropolitan export landscape in 2010, the first year of the nation’s economic recovery.

Read the full report (PDF) »

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