Key Export Trends

Export Nation 2013: U.S. Growth Post-Recession

An analysis of key export trends between 2003 and 2012 for the 100 largest metro areas finds that:

  • Exports drove post-recession growth in the 100 largest metro areas. Exports accounted for 54 percent of output growth in the top 100 metro areas from 2009 to 2012, compared to 37 percent nationally.
  • Few metro areas are on track to achieve the NEI goal of doubling exports in five years.
  • Twelve of the top 100 metros have maintained the 15 percent annual growth rate required to double exports.
  • The 10 largest metro areas, by export volume, produced 28 percent of U.S. exports in 2012. The rankings of the largest exporting metro areas remained basically unchanged since 2010.
  • Two-thirds of the largest metro areas underperform the United States as a whole on export intensity, suggesting that there is significant potential for the expansion of exports at the metro level.
  • The most export-intensive metro areas are highly specialized in certain industries. For the 11 metros in which exports made up at least 20 percent of output in 2012, on average 53 percent of exports came from one industry.
  • Metro areas whose export intensity grew fastest experienced higher economic growth.
  • From 2003 to 2012, average output growth was three percent in the top 10 metros for export intensity growth, compared to 1.7 percent in the bottom 10 metro areas.
  • Metro area manufacturing exports grew to record levels in 2012. Transportation equipment, petroleum and coal products, and computers and electronics accounted for nearly half of post-recession export growth in the top 100 metros.
  • Services accounted for more than half of post-recession export growth in 11 metros, including San Francisco, Washington DC and New York. Service exports were among the fastest growing over the past decade, but have not kept pace with recent manufacturing exports growth.
  • Certain industries, especially in the services sector, produce almost all of their exports in the top 100 metro areas. Fifteen industries generated more than 80 percent of their exports from the 100 largest metros in 2012.
  • Both highly specialized and highly diversified metros performed well from 2003 to 2012.
  • Metros that are highly concentrated in one industry exhibited some of the fastest export growth rates, but the most diversified metros generally experienced more consistent, moderate growth.

Research provided by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

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What’s the Global Cities Initiative?


The Global Cities Initiative is a collaboration between the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase that aims to equip business, civic and government leaders from U.S. and global metropolitan areas with the information, policy ideas and global connections they need to thrive in the global economy. Chaired by Richard M. Daley, the former mayor of Chicago, and directed by Brookings' Bruce Katz, the Global Cities Initiative is helping city and metropolitan leaders become more globally fluent by providing an in-depth and data-driven look at their regional standings on crucial global economic measures, highlighting best policy and practice innovations from around the world, and creating an international network of leaders who ultimately trade, invest and grow together.

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