International Trade: A Bright Spot for Florida’s Economy
Since the 2007 Great Recession, Florida’s total trade activity has grown by approximately 69 percent. International trade volume is a useful indicator of Florida’s overall economic activity. As imports and exports increase, Florida employers may require additional employees to handle the growing level of commerce throughout the state. Although most economic developers focus on export value, strong imports can indicate improvement in consumer demand and also create transportation and logistics jobs for Floridians. In the months prior to the 2012 holiday season, trade activity suggested retail sales in Florida would increase, as imports reached levels unseen since the onset of the Great Recession. Typically after the “peak season” in port activity subsides, total trade activity declines primarily due to a decline in imports; however recent data from the Census Bureau suggest Florida’s trade activity in November held strong. Florida’s total trade activity in November remained relatively unchanged, as the 2.7 percent growth in imports nearly offset the 3 percent decrease in exports.
Trade activity growth in Florida appeared stronger than that of the U.S., as labor union disputes hindered the nation’s largest seas port. As we would expect with standard seasonal variation experienced in the month of November, U.S. imports and exports declined in the month of November. The Los Angeles Port Strike provides one possible explanation to the sharp decline in imports, as Los Angeles is the largest port in the U.S. According to Southern California Public Radio, a one week strike caused a 16 percent decrease in container volumes in November 2012 when compared to November 2011. However, this fact should not discount the positive activity occurring at Florida ports. Encouraging additional international trade through Florida will be a key driver of the state’s future economy.