Exports from Metro Milwaukee companies grew more than 10% in the first half of 2021, a pace that lags other metro areas in the Midwest, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
The region exported nearly $3.57 billion in goods during the first six months of the year, including $1.81 billion in the second quarter. The second quarter represented an almost 29% increase from the same period in 2020.
While the export totals represent a strong rebound from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Milwaukee lagged other metro areas. Among 10 Midwest metros tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau, only Peoria, down 43%, and St. Louis, up 8.4%, saw worse performance.
The 10 metros combined for a 22.7% increase in exports, led by the Chicago metro area, which was up 36.7%. Detroit was up 31% and Minneapolis and Kansas City were both up nearly 26%.
Milwaukee’s exports, however, only dropped by 6.3% in the first half of 2020, the second smallest decline among the Midwestern metros. Indianapolis saw the smallest drop at 2.4%. Combined, the 10 Midwest metros saw exports decline 18.9% from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2020.
Beyond the impact of COVID-19, export comparisons are complicated by the escalation of tariffs by President Donald Trump and EU and Chinese officials in 2018 and 2019.
Milwaukee’s exports for the first half of 2021 were down 3.9% compared to the first half of 2018. The Midwest metros have combined for a 7.2% decrease compared to 2018.
Four metros have outpaced Milwaukee since 2018. Kansas City has increased exports 18.1%, Indianapolis is up 11.3%, Chicago is up 8.3% and Minneapolis-St. Paul is up 3.6%.