Oregon Exports Abridged: A Story of Computer and Electronic Products, and China

by Christopher Rich

February 24, 2021

Exports are the result of production in traded sectors: industries that manufacture, create, mine, harvest, or otherwise produce items to be sold and shipped for use in further production or sold and shipped to another destination for final sale. United States exports totaled over $1.6 trillion in 2019, roughly $600 billion more than in 2009. Much of the increase came in a two-year period. Exports totaled less than $1.1 trillion in 2009 and grew to nearly $1.5 trillion by the end of 2011. As might be expected, two of the nation’s largest states accounted for the two largest shares of exports: Texas at 20.0% and California at 10.6%. New York was third in 2019 at 4.6%. There were six states that each held less than a 4.0% share of the nation’s exports and 41 states that each held less than a 3.0% share. Oregon was 20th on the list with exports valued at $23.6 billion or 1.4% of all U.S. exports.
Oregon Finds Top Three Export Markets in U.S. Top Four

Canada, Mexico, and China purchased a combined 40.0% of U.S. goods and services sold in the international marketplace. Canada was the most favored export partner followed closely by Mexico. China took the number three slot with Japan just beating out the United Kingdom for slot number four. Canadian businesses purchased $292.6 billion (17.8%) worth of U.S. goods and services sold outside the states in 2019. Texas was the top supplier, shipping 9.8% of Canada’s U.S. imports. Oregon fell in at 24th, shipping 1.1% at a value of $3.4 billion. Oregon’s top export to Canada was transportation equipment, which accounted for 30.5% of Oregon’s total exports to Canada. Machinery; except electrical (15.7%) and chemicals (6.5%) were the second and third largest Oregon exports to Canada.

Mexico purchased $256.6 billion (15.6%) worth of U.S. goods and services in 2019. Texas again shipped the largest share but at a much more substantial 42.3% of U.S. products purchased by the country: a value of $108.6 billion. Oregon was 36th on the list of Mexico’s U.S. suppliers with a 0.2% share of the market: a value of $530 million. As was the case with Canada, Oregon’s largest export to Mexico was transportation equipment, though it was roughly one-eighth ($129 million) of what was sold in the Canadian market. Transportation equipment accounted for 24.3% of Oregon’s total exports to Mexico. Machinery; except electrical (19.6%) and electronic equipment; appliances and components (12.2%) took the second and third slots.

China, the third largest export partner of the United States, purchased 6.5% of the nation’s exports at a value of $106.4 billion. Unlike the export market in Mexico, the market in China saw a more even distribution among the states. California (14.9%), Texas (10.3%), and Washington State (8.4%) held the top three spots. Oregon was the fourth largest exporter to China and found the market particularly favorable. Oregon supplied 6.8% of China’s imported U.S. goods and services in 2019, and at a value of $7.2 billion, China’s business purchases represented 30.5% of all Oregon exports. China may have ranked third for the U.S., but the country ranked as the top export market for Oregon. Canada and Japan rounded out the top three for Oregon, purchasing 14.2% and 6.7% of the state’s exports, respectively. Mexico was eighth on Oregon’s list at 2.2%.
Japan purchased 6.7% of Oregon’s goods and services worth $1.6 billion. Japan’s top interest in Oregon was in agricultural products, which represented 17.6% of the country’s imports from Oregon, totaling $279 million. Transportation equipment (16.7%), and computer and electronic products (13.1%) were the second and third most sought after products by Japan’s businesses. Japan’s top three imports, along with machinery; except electrical, food manufactures, chemicals, and wood products, accounted for roughly 90.0% of the country’s imports from Oregon.

China Is a Top Destination for Top Three Oregon Exports

Computer and electronic products has been Oregon’s number one export since at least as far back as the International Trade Administration’s online Database goes (1999). In 2019, computer and electronic exports represented 43.6% of the state’s total exports, fetching $10.3 billion in revenue. China purchased just over half of this at a price tag of $5.6 billion. Computer and electronic exports represented the vast majority (78.2%) of products sold from Oregon to China. Chemicals (7.6%) and machinery; except electrical (6.7%) made up the bulk of the state’s remaining exports to the country. Malaysia and Vietnam also took a solid interest in computer products. Altogether, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China accounted for three-fourths of Oregon’s computer and electronics export market. Oregon’s remaining computer and electronic exports were split between 155 countries and ranged from Germany’s $220.6 million purchase to the $2,995 purchase from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
Machinery; except electrical products was Oregon’s second largest export in 2019. Machinery exports represented 12.7% of the state’s total exports: a value of $3 billion. Canada, Oregon’s second largest export market was the state’s top export market for machinery. The margin was slim, however, with China as a close second. Canada took in 17.7% of Oregon’s machinery exports at nearly $529 million. China purchased 16.0%. Taiwan purchased 14.8% and South Korea purchased 14.3%.Together these four countries accounted for 62.8% of Oregon’s machinery exports. The remaining portion of machinery exports went to 148 countries and ranged from Japan’s $195.1 million purchase to Martinique’s $2,766 purchase. 

China was also at the top of the list for Oregon’s third largest export: Chemicals. The chemicals market represented 10.0% of Oregon’s exports in 2019, fetching $2.4 billion for the state’s exporters. China’s businesses purchased 23.2% of chemicals exported from Oregon with a price tag of $547.1 million. Switzerland (13.0%), South Korea (11.0%), Canada (9.3%), and Brazil (6.7%) were also at the top of the list. The top five countries accounted for nearly two-thirds of the market. Oregon’s remaining chemical exports went to 105 countries and ranged from Japan’s $152.4 million purchase to Papua New Guinea’s $2,546 purchase.

Exports Fuel Manufacturing’s Top Industry, Fueling the Economy

Exports fall into many categories. They can be mined or extracted, grown or raised, or even intellectual property or services. More than 90% of Oregon exports, however, are manufactured goods. It might be easy to overlook manufacturing’s part in Oregon’s economy. Many manufacturers are small and they aren’t as prevalent as other businesses. Just 4.2% of firms (6,396) in Oregon’s private sector were classified as manufacturing in 2019. In comparison, three of the top industries for employment, education and health services, retail trade, and leisure and hospitality each had over 13,000 firms in 2019, more than twice as many as manufacturing did. Manufacturing, however, employed 11.8% of the private sector’s workforce (197,627 jobs), which was on par with retail trade, and leisure and hospitality. And, while manufacturing did have roughly 100,000 fewer jobs than education and health services, the industry paid $14.1 billion (15.6%) of the private sector’s $90.6 billion payroll. On par with the $15.3 billion payroll of education and health services and nearly two and a half times the payroll of retail trade or nearly three times the payroll of leisure and hospitality.

Oregon’s top export industry was also its top manufacturing industry. Computer and electronic product manufacturing employed 38,559 people with a payroll of $5.3 billion.  The majority of these jobs (78.9%) were in semiconductor and electronic components. Computer and electronics manufacturing employed more workers than machinery manufacturing (14,136), more than fabricated metal manufacturing (16,699), more than wood product manufacturing (23,188), and even more than food manufacturing (29,885), the four next largest manufacturing industries by employment. In addition, computer and electronic manufacturing’s payroll was $756 million larger than the total combined payroll for these four industries.

Computer and electronics manufacturing accounted for well over one-third of manufacturing’s total payroll and its contribution to the economy is larger still. Oregon’s private-sector gross domestic product was roughly $221.7 billion in 2019. Goods producing industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, and mining represented 23% ($51 billion) of the state’s private-sector GDP. Manufacturing alone accounted for 15.5% with computer and electronic product manufacturing contributing $16.1 billion: nearly half of manufacturing’s $34.3 billion contribution to GDP. Food and beverage manufacturing, wood product manufacturing, machinery manufacturing, and fabricated metal manufacturing were the next largest contributors from the industry. These four combined for a total contribution of $9.4 billion to private-sector GDP.
Traded sectors are considered the backbone of the economy for a good reason. The exchange of goods and services produced in one place and sold in another allows for specialization and beneficial excess production. Selling goods and services outside of the local market brings excess money into the local economy. Along with driving industries such as manufacturing and agriculture, trade and exports fuel industries such as truck transportation, an industry that employed 18,883 workers in Oregon in 2019 and paid $1.0 billion in wages, or warehousing and storage, an industry that employed 13,720 workers and paid $582 million in wages. Traded sectors also pay wages to their local workforce, which directly affects real estate through rents and home sales, and fuels local businesses in non-traded sectors such as retail trade, leisure and hospitality, and education and health services. (As a side note, sub-industries or even individual businesses within these three traditionally non-traded sectors can be considered tradable under certain circumstances: a hidden traded component.)

Just a Peek at the Larger Trade Economy

This was just a small piece of the big story of trade in the economy. A snapshot of the largest export markets of the largest export industries, and how the two tie directly to large industry employment, wages, and GDP in Oregon. While we’ve only looked at some highlights of foreign exports, traded sectors sell in domestic markets as well. In fact many producers likely sell their largest portion of production in the domestic market: state-to-state exports, county-to-county exports, and city-to-city exports. The story of traded sectors, and how they fuel Oregon’s economy is much, much larger. For a look at some specific industries, and to also get an idea of how otherwise non-traded sectors can have a hidden traded component, check out the following articles.

Oregon Dairy Production Rises to Peak as Milk Prices Reach Five-Year High by Dallas Fridley

In Cod (And Crab!) We Trust – Oregon’s Seafood Processing Industry by Erik Knoder

Oregon’s Forestry and Logging Industry: From Planting to Harvest by Brian Rooney

Enrollment at Oregon’s Public Universities by Damon Runberg

Oregon’s Company Headquarters: Strong Growth and High Wages by Amy Vander Vliet


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