Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:37 pm
On the surface, it looks like Wisconsin exporters had one of their better months of 2019 in September, but a closer look at the data suggests companies continue to see international sales drop amid global trade tensions and an economic slowdown in some markets.
Overall, September exports from the state declined 0.96% or $17.5 million compared to last year, coming in at nearly $1.83 billion, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Wisconsin has experienced year-over-year declines in exports every month in 2019 and the September decline is the third smallest of the year behind January and March.
Wisconsin’s exports to China, the main source of global trade tensions, declined 21.4% in September. Sales to the Asian country are down $311.1 million for the year or 24.8%. Six of nine months have seen declines of more than 20%.
Exports to Europe were down 5.6% in September and they have declined $152.2 million or 4.4% for the year.
Sales to Canada, Wisconsin’s largest export market, had their second best performance of the year, but were still down 0.69%. For the year, exports to the northern neighbor are down 4.7% or $253.9 million.
The bright spot among major export markets in September was Mexico, up almost 10% from the prior year after experiencing five straight months of decline.
Almost $63 million in exports of civilian aircraft, engines and parts, however, boosted exports to Mexico. In September 2018, Wisconsin exported $688,054 under that category. The previous monthly high for shipments of that group of products was $14.2 million in July 2016.
Remove the spike in aircraft engines and parts sent to Mexico and the September data no longer looks as rosy. The Mexico numbers flip to a decrease of 12.6% and global exports drop to a decline of 4.4%
On the import side, Wisconsin has seen a 5.2% decline in international sales into the state, although imports were up 5.1% in September.
Most of the decline is in shipments from China, down $1.02 billion for the year or 17.4%. Imports from China were down 24.7% in September alone.
Imports from Canada and Mexico have also declined, down 8.4% and 2.7% respectively. Imports from Europe, meanwhile, have increased 3.1%, including a 38% jump in September.
Other Asian countries appear to have picked up some of the decline as companies look for suppliers in other areas to avoid increasing tariffs.
Imports from Japan are up almost 15% for the year, a $75 million increase. Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam have all seen significant double-digit percentage increases in imports.
Collectively, imports from those six countries have increased $277 million or 13.5% this year.