A Deeper Look at US Trade

The US Census Bureau is the main source for all trade related data. Previously I’ve looked just at our overall trading partners, but they also have some detailed datasets that go into detail regarding what kinds of things are being traded. Unfortunately, these only go back to 2006, but there’s still interesting stuff.

First, let’s look at what we export, by category.


The two biggest categories are capital goods and industrial supplies and materials. In a second we’ll dig deeper into what that means. Next is our imports:


Here there are three standouts: Industrial supplies, capital goods, and consumer goods. The 2009 recession is obvious here, and note the recent substantive decline in imports of industrial supplies. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

So what are the top US exports by sub category?


Things looks to be relatively stable (I should note I’m just working with nominal dollars here, but since this data only goes back 10 years and we’ve had stable and low inflation in that time, it shouldn’t make any big difference, just that slowly increasing trends mean about stable in real terms). What is very notable is the dramatic increase in aircraft exports after 2010.

Now imports:


Cell phones, cars, pharmaceuticals, and…oil, of course. Note here also the dramatic fall in oil imports. This is partly due to the collapse in oil prices at the end of 2014, but the decline began years earlier thanks to the shale oil revolution.



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