The Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Census Bureau reported that the U.S. trade balance in November widened to $47.8 billion from $43.3 billion in October. Americans imported $225.6 billion in goods and services for the month (up from $222.6 the previous month) and exported $177.8 billion (down from $179.4 billion).
A widening of the deficits for goods and petroleum led to this month’s larger overall deficit. Exports of industrial supplies and materials fell from $43.1 billion to $41.4 billion, with smaller declines observed in the export of food products, automobiles and capital goods. There was, however, a net gain in exports for consumer goods. The trade balance for petroleum, meanwhile, fell from $24.2 billion to $27.6 billion, largely on higher imports.
Looking geographically, exports to Europe have slowed somewhat, as you might expect given challenges in the Eurozone area. Exports of goods and services to Europe fell from $28.4 billion in October to $26.8 billion in November. Note that Europe accounts for over 20 percent of U.S. manufactured goods exports, so any stalling in the region for sales of our products can have an impact. Nonetheless, slower exports were not just a phenomenon of Europe, as few exports were also observed across-the-board in other regions, as well.
The value of U.S. manufactured goods exported in November was $81.9 billion, down from $86.2 billion in October. Still, there have been $889.3 billion in manufactured goods exports year-to-date in 2011 (through November); that represents an 11.8 percent increase on the $795.4 billion at the same point in 2010. Note that these numbers are not seasonally adjusted.
Manufactured goods account for 60 percent of our total exports. With that in mind, we will depend heavily on the manufacturing sector if we are to make the President’s goal of doubling exports by 2015. Hopefully, global economic growth can pick up in the coming month, helping to provide a boost to our trade numbers. Economic weaknesses in Europe and elsewhere, though, could hinder this goal.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.