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116 U.S. Cities Post Exports in Excess of $1 Billion

A new data series compiled by the International Trade Administration’s Manufacturing and Services unit shows the importance of exports to regional economies.

by Matt Braud, Elizabeth Clark, and Michael Greene

According to a new data series made available by the Commerce Department’s Manufacturing and Services unit, the United States had 116 “billion-dollar markets” in 2006. Those markets were metropolitan areas that recorded merchandise export sales of more than $1 billion. The series, Metropolitan Export Data, measures export values for 369 U.S. metropolitan areas. The measurements are based on information gathered by the Census Bureau, which records the value of merchandise exported from each of the metropolitan areas.

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Billion-Dollar Markets:
The Top 10 U.S. Metropolitan Areas
in Terms of Exports in 2006
Metropolitan Area
(and State)
Export Sales
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI
Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, FL
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, Metropolitan Export Data


Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez announced the data series on January 24, 2007, in a speech in Atlanta, Georgia. He noted, “Exports boost jobs, grow the economy, and allow businesses to prosper. The new data [series] shows that cities across the country are thriving in the global economy. It also reinforces the positive role that trade and exports had in creating jobs and growing local economies.”

The data contained in Metropolitan Export Data cover 2005 and 2006. The series offers the following additional breakdowns: metropolitan area exports as a percentage of total exports, exports to individual countries by product category for the 50 largest metropolitan areas, top global export product categories, and total exports to 10 regional destinations.

Seven Markets Exceed $25 Billion

In 2006, according to the series, seven metropolitan areas posted export sales of more than $25 billion. Those markets were New York–Northern New Jersey–Long Island, Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown, Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, Seattle–Tacoma–Bellevue, Detroit–Warren–Livonia, Chicago–Naperville–Joliet, and San Jose–Sunnyvale–Santa Clara. An additional 30 metropolitan areas exported between $5 billion and $25 billion. The top 37 metropolitan areas accounted for 61 percent of total U.S. merchandise exports in 2006.

A total of 290 metropolitan areas (79 percent) recorded positive growth in area exports between 2005 and 2006. Of that number, 28 major metropolitan areas expanded exports by more than $1 billion. Another 24 metropolitan areas posted export increases between $500 million and $1 billion, while 89 other metropolitan areas registered export increases between $100 million and $499 million. The remaining 149 had increases of up to $99 million.

Fifteen metropolitan areas accounted for at least 50 percent of their states’ merchandise exports in 2006.

Differences from Older Data Series

The 2005 and 2006 data are based on the Census Bureau’s “origin of movement” series, which records the exported goods’ journey differently than the earlier “exporter location” series (see sidebar). The latter series was the basis of an older data series, Metropolitan Area Exports, which the Commerce Department discontinued in 2001. No comparisons should be made between the two series.

In addition, metropolitan statistical areas are redefined with each 10-year census. Earlier data releases were based on the 1990 definitions of metropolitan areas. The new numbers for 2005 and 2006 are based on the 2000 definitions.

For additional information about Metropolitan Export Data, and to learn more about the basics of trade data, visit

Matt Braud is the communications director for the Manufacturing and Services unit of the International Trade Administration. Elizabeth Clark and Michael Greene are economists in the Manufacturing and Services unit’s Office of Trade and Industry Information.

How the Numbers Were Compiled

The Census Bureau collects export trade statistics for the United States. It bases its information on the Shipper’s Export Declaration that is filed by exporters, forwarders, and freight carriers. Since the 1980s, information on the state from which the merchandise was shipped—the so-called origin of movement—has been available from the Census Bureau. That information forms the basis of the Commerce Department’s TradeStats Express service, which has been available since December 2003.

Beginning in 2006, the Census Bureau made available export data tabulated by ZIP code. The data also reflect the goods’ origin of movement.

For Metropolitan Export Series, the Census Bureau linked five-digit ZIP code export data with U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). MSAs are contiguous geographic entities defined by the Office of Management and Budget every 10 years for collecting federal statistics. A complete list of MSAs is available from the Census Bureau.