Energy & Commodity Prices Create Noise in Export Statistics

September 14th, 2015

This week we look at the impact of weaker energy and commodity prices on reported levels of exports.

Energy and Commodity Prices Create Noise in Export Statistics

The Census Bureau recently released its latest statistics regarding exports by State.   Over the last year, the dollar volume of exports nationally has declined by 7.0%.


Some of this decline might have been caused by a stronger dollar reducing demand for US products, but the main factor is likely lower energy and commodity prices.  Because the Census statistics are reported in dollars, lower energy prices lead to lower reported exports for the same physical volume of exports.

The BLS reports that export prices have declined by -7.0% and import prices have declined by -11.4% over the last year.


Measured in dollars, exports of petroleum and coal products declined by 32% between July of 2014 and July of 2015. Mining exports (Oil and Gas /Minerals and Ores) declined by 29%.

Measured in barrels, U.S. exports of crude oil and petroleum products have increased by 18% in the last year.


Texas (-13%) and Louisiana (-19%) together accounted for close to half of the decline in U.S. dollar volume of exports.

According to the Census, energy products represented 25% of Texas’s exports at the end of 2014.  For Louisiana, energy products were 40% of exports.  While we don’t tend to think of New Jersey as an energy State, its largest export (19%) is petroleum products.


Washington (-21%) is a non-energy State that was a large contributor to the national decline.  Washington’s largest export (53% of total) is aircraft, aircraft engines and parts.

Washington’s export decline appears to be due to seasonal factors than to underlying economic issues.


While July is usually a weak month for exports from Washington, July of 2014 was strong, causing the year over year change to appear weak.  Year to date 2015, exports from Washington are down less (-3.2%) than the year over change (-21%) would indicate.

Deviation from seasonal patterns also appears to be at play in the case of South Carolina. While July is typically a weak month for exports from South Carolina, this year July was a particularly strong month.


Year to date, South Carolina exports are up +4.5%.  Passenger cars account for over half of South Carolina’s exports.

Map of the Week: Exports as a share of State GDP


Have a great week,

Michael Craft, CFA