Metropolitan Export Series - FAQs

Metropolitan Export Series Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Metropolitan Export Series Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is a geographic entity delineated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for use by federal statistical agencies. The general concept of an MSA is that of an area containing a large population nucleus and adjacent communities that have a high degree of integration with that nucleus. The boundaries of official MSAs are county-based and are defined by the OMB according to published standards that are applied to Census Bureau data. The OMB’s 2010 standards provide that each MSA must have at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more inhabitants. A comprehensive listing of MSAs is available from OMB and delineation files for current and historical definitions are available from the Census Bureau.


The metropolitan export data tools are three interactive dashboards with varying levels of detail. Data are available by export destination (country, world region, or trade bloc), sector, and county within the MSA (for top 50 MSAs only), subject to disclosure-induced limitations. The table below compares their content.


Starting with 2018, MSA definitions will be updated twice a decade: in years ending in ‘3’, based on data from the decennial census; and then again in years ending in ‘8’, based on updated data from the American Community Survey. Prior to 2018, MSA definitions were updated only in years ending in ‘3’.


Data in ITA’s Metropolitan Export Series reflect the MSA definition in the year the data were reported. Historical data are not revised to account for changes in MSA definition. Users should be aware that time-series analysis may be impacted by the addition or removal of counties from an MSA, particularly in years ending in ‘3’ and ‘8’.


Metropolitan Export Series relies on export data collected on a zip code basis, a practice that began in 2005 with additional detail in the subsequent years. 

The following dataset(s) starts in 2005:

  • Top 5 NAICS-3 Export Sectors 
  • Exports to Select Regions/Trading Groups
  • Top 5 Export Markets of the Top 50 Exporting MSAs
  • Exports by 3-digit ZIP code

The following dataset(s) start in 2008:

  • All NAICS-3 Export Sectors of the Top 50 MSAs
  • Top 10 MSA Exporters to the Top 50 Markets

The following dataset(s) start in 2010:

  • Non-MSA Exports by State

The following dataset(s) start in 2012:

  • Top 30 NAICS-4 Export sectors of the Top 25 MSAs
  • Up to Top 10 Exporting Counties of the Top 50 MSAs

ITA’s Metropolitan Export Series uses the Origin of Movement - ZIP Code Based (OM-Zip) data series, where the origin of an export is determined by the zip code of the U.S. Principle Party of Interest (USPPI). The USPPI is the entity that receives the primary monetary benefit from the export. This differs from the Origin of Movement - Based on Origin State (OM-State) data series which provides export statistics based on the state from which the merchandise starts its journey to the port of export. All MSA export numbers in these tables were tabulated by matching the five-digit zip codes entered on U.S. export declarations with the five-digit zip codes specified for each MSA using concordance files from the Census Bureau’s Geography Division and the U.S. Postal Service.


No, the Metropolitan Export Series only measures merchandise (goods) exports.


No revisions are made to ITA’s Metropolitan Export Series. Therefore, the national total for goods exports based on the metropolitan export series will only match totals in other unrevised sources.


No. The metropolitan export data are only available in nominal U.S. dollars. The dollar values that are reported are not adjusted for inflation or any other factors.


Data in ITA’s Metropolitan Export Series are only available annually. However, the Census Bureau publishes quarterly export data for a limited number of metropolitan areas.


Data is available for the value of exports on the 3-digit zip code level through our Exporter Database resource. Due to federal government suppression restrictions, however, the distribution of export data by 5-digit zip code is not possible. If you wish to purchase trade data for a county not listed in ITA’s Metropolitan Export Series, please contact the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Trade Division.


No. The zip code information needed to track the imports at a metropolitan area level is not collected at this time. However, a newer State Import Series is available that measures goods imports at the state level.


No. Customs District and port data measure goods that leave out of a given district or port (regardless of where the good originated in the United States). The metropolitan export data is based on the Origin of Movement – Zip Code Based series, this data assigns exports to the location of the U.S. Principle Party in Interest (USPPI) regardless of where the good actually leaves the country. For example, in the metropolitan series, a good with a USPPI in Chicago will be attributed to Chicago, even if the good left the country from the port of Miami or Los Angeles. 


No. The Metropolitan Export Series allocates exports to metropolitan areas based on the address of the United States Principal Party in Interest (USPPI) of record. The USPPI of record is not necessarily the entity that produced the merchandise; hence, the series does not furnish complete and reliable data on the production origin of U.S. exports.


Percent share of a state’s exports cannot be calculated for metropolitan areas that cross state boundaries. Please refer to the OMB definitions for your metropolitan area to confirm that the area contains counties from more than one state. This is also evident in the metropolitan area’s name in other tables on our site. For instance, the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD metropolitan area contains data from select counties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.


The world destinations in ITA’s Metropolitan Export Series reflect the groupings that are relevant to ITA’s varied client base. These world destinations are based on political, economic, and geographic groupings. Some countries may be members of multiple groups; therefore, values for country groups cannot be summed to arrive at meaningful totals.


Because of U.S. laws that preclude disclosure of confidential business data provided to the federal government, it is necessary for the U.S. Census Bureau to completely suppress the export totals for certain MSAs each year. The totals for these MSAs are folded into a category labeled “other metropolitan areas”. In 2019, for example, export totals for six MSAs were suppressed: Farmington, NM, Las Cruces, NM, Texarkana, TX-AR, Tuscaloosa, AL, Waco, TX, and Wheeling, WV-OH. For information on suppressions in prior years of data, please see the methodology associated with the Metropolitan Export Series. 


Due to time and cost restrictions, ITA limits the data that we request from the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau puts considerable time and resources into collecting the data and analyzing it to be sure that no information is disclosed that may identify an individual company or exporter. To expedite the release of the data and keep costs reasonable, ITA requested that we receive country detail for only the top 50 metropolitan areas. If your metropolitan area falls outside the top 50, you may be able to purchase this country detail from the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Trade Division.


ITA’s database is limited to only the top 5 countries for the top 50 metropolitan areas. Additional country detail may be available for purchase from the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Trade Division.


No. The metropolitan series should only be compared to other sources that also use the Origin of Movement - ZIP Code Based series. Both TradeStats Express and USA Trade Online publish their export data on an Origin of Movement state-basis. State totals on a zip-basis can be found on the Census Bureau’s website.


No. Due to time and cost considerations, ITA limits the data that we request from the Census Bureau. Additional country and product detail may be available for purchase from the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Trade Division. 


The table below shows the members of market regions in the Metropolitan Export Series. Please note that for groupings that have changed over time (i.e. the EU) data will reflect membership as it was in the year selected. 


Market Region

Member countries/economies

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea (South), Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Partners



Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru, Singapore, and South Korea.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

Canada, Mexico, and the United States  

European Union 

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (through 2021).


Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Israel, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Syria, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Yemen. 

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

Algeria, Angola, Congo (Brazzaville), Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

South America

Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas).


Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, British Indian Ocean Territories, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Kinshasa), Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Reunion, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, St. Helena, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.


Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.