Solid Trade Data Means Expanded Opportunities for Small Businesses and Workers

By at 11 November, 2017, 2:09 pm

by Raymond J. Keating

The latest trade data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis offered good news in terms of both export and import growth.

It must be kept in mind that both exports and imports (in nominal terms) declined in 2016 and in 2015.

From January to May of this year, exports basically meandered, and then moved up in June, only to meander some more in July and August. But according to this latest data from the BEA, exports increased from $194.7 billion in August to $196.8 billion in September – the highest level since December 2014. And through the first nine months of 2017, exports were up versus the same period last year.

On the imports side, after declining for four consecutive months, imports increased from $237.5 billion in August to $240.3 billion in September – the highest level since January of this year. Again, after two years of decline, through the first nine months of this year, imports in 2017 were up versus 2016.

Trade Growth Means Economic Growth

Growth on the trade front would contribute to faster overall economic growth. Of course, greater exports mean expanding opportunities for U.S. entrepreneurs, businesses and workers, while rising imports reflects stronger domestic growth.

U.S. businesses, workers and consumers are deeply integrated in the global economy. But for more than two years, trade has been sluggish, at best. Let’s hope that this recent growth in exports and imports is signaling that positive change is under way.

Small Businesses Dominate Trade

In addition, trade very much is a small business issue. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 86.7 percent of U.S. exporting firms have fewer than 50 workers and 91.9 percent less than 100 employees; while on the import side, 85.5 percent have less than 50 workers, and 90.8 percent less than 100 employees.

Of course, government can and should make a difference by reducing barriers to international trade and investment, which would provide another foundation – in addition to tax and regulatory relief – upon which U.S. economic, income and employment growth could flourish.


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

Keating’s latest book published by SBE Council is titled Unleashing Small Business Through IP:  The Role of Intellectual Property in Driving Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Investment and it is available free on SBE Council’s website here.

News and Media Releases