April 2020 Trade Data: The Dramatic Plunge

By at 4 June, 2020, 12:53 pm

by Raymond J. Keating-

It’s not surprising that during the pandemic crisis the latest trade data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis was grim. Yet the plunge in both U.S. exports and imports is still breathtaking.

U.S. exports of goods and services declined by 20.5 percent in April, and that came after a drop of 10.2 percent in March. So, from February to April, U.S. exports fell by 28.6 percent. The April level of monthly exports (seasonally adjusted) registered $151.3 billion. That was the lowest monthly amount since April 2010, and matching the same level as January 2008.

Data Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (Note: The (R) in the chart labels reflect months where data were revised by the BEA.)

As for imports, they declined by 13.7 percent in April, after a drop of 5.6 percent in March. The February-to-April falloff in imports was 18.6 percent. April’s imports of $200.7 billion was the lowest monthly level since July 2010, and matching the level in September 2007. Keep in mind that imports are inputs for U.S. businesses, and reflect the state of the domestic economy.

Trade is critical to the U.S. economy, and to American small businesses, as 76 percent of U.S. exporters have fewer than 20 employees and 77 of U.S. importers also have fewer than 20 employees.

Getting the U.S. back on a path of robust growth will require reducing governmental barriers – including on the trade front – so that consumers, entrepreneurs, workers and businesses can seize upon opportunities.

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


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