Wisconsin import growth outpacing exports in Q1, both up over pre-pandemic levels

wisconsin exports

International imports into Wisconsin increased nearly 22% in the first quarter compared to the same period a year ago while the state’s exports are up around 5.4%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Comparisons to data from early 2020 are complicated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but both exports and imports for Q1 are also up in comparison to 2019 and 2018.

Wisconsin imported about $7.63 billion in goods during the first quarter, including more than $3 billion in March. In 2020, the state’s imports totaled $6.26 billion in the first quarter and $2.22 billion for March. First quarter exports totaled $6.83 billion in 2019 amid rising trade tensions and tariffs and $7.19 billion in the first quarter of 2018.

Imports from China alone are up 57% to nearly $1.7 billion for the first quarter. Imports for March of nearly $604 million were more than double the roughly $289 million in imports for March of 2020.

Imports from the rest of Asia are also up about 12% for the year compared to 2020, likely partially the result of the pandemic and also the shift of sourcing away from China. The rest of Asia accounted for almost 21% of Wisconsin’s imports, up from around 17% on average in 2017 through 2019.

On the export side, the state’s companies shipped $5.7 billion goods for the first quarter, including $2.06 billion in March, a 1% increase from 2020 but a slight decrease from 2019 and 2018. Exports for the quarter were up 5.1% from 2019 levels and 4.4% from 2018.

Exports to Canada, the largest destination for Wisconsin goods, are up 11% year-over-year for the quarter and 1.5% compared to 2018 levels.

A similar pattern exists in exports to Europe, which are up almost 7% year-over-year and 1.7% compared to 2018.

Two other major destinations show divergent patterns. Exports to Mexico are up 3.7% year-over-year but are down 6.4% from 2018 levels. Exports to China, on the other hand, are up 8.9% year-over-year and 13.4% from 2018 levels.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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