November 17, 2021
Business Policy washington

2021 U.S. Trade Kept Above Water By These Two Fast-Growing Airports

U.S. trade is up $14.31 billion in 2021. But if you subtract the substantial gains at just two airports, Chicago’s O’Hare International and New York’s JFK International, trade is down slightly.

Led by O’Hare and JFK, six of the nation’s top 10 airports, seaports and border crossings showed double-digit trade gains through February, the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data available.

The other four in the top 10 with double-digit growth are the Port of Los Angeles, Port of Newark/Liberty International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and the Port of Savannah.

In fact, subtract the gains from those six and U.S. trade is down $13,5 billion on the year.

Through February, U.S. trade totaled $650.2 billion, a 2.25% increase over the same two months of 2020 that is equal to $27.81 billion.

That was before the impact of the coronavirus that we would all came to call Covid-19 or just plain Covid, was felt. That impact will show up in March data, no doubt giving a misleading boost to 2021 data that will only increase in April and May data. But there could be some skewing of the February data, due to lateness of the Chinese New Year in 2020.

Overall U.S. exports dropped 3.68% to $251.57 billion while imports increased 6.38% to $398.62 billion.

The U.S. deficit increased from $113,53 billion to $147.05 billion. The balance of trade — the percentage of U.S. trade that is an export — actually improved slightly to 39 cents on the dollar from 38 cents in 2020. Traditionally, it hovers at about 40-42%.

Looking at the nation’s leading airports, seaports and border crossings, are there any common denominators?

The most obvious is that five of the six count China as their No. 1 trade partner while the sixth, JFK, used to. At top-ranked Port of Los Angeles, it is 44% of the total. At No. 2-ranked O’Hare, it is 34%. At Newark, it is 16% (but most of the gain at No. 2 Switzerland is actually flying from Newark’s Liberty International but not separated in the data); at LAX, it’s 30%; at Savannah, it’s 25%; and at JFK, where it ranks second to Switzerland, this and also did so last year; it accounted for 8.5% of all trade.

Despite a trade war soon to enter its fourth year, a hold-over from the administration of former President Donald Trump that President Biden has not felt compelled to address, U.S.-China trade, including imports, continues to grow. China finished as the nation’s No. 1 trade partner in 2020 and is at the top this year.

Computer imports remain red hot. Computer imports are up 60.41% at the Port of Los Angeles to $1.15 billion; 127.45% to $4.73 billion at O’Hare; and 85.64% at LAX to $2.1 billion. Overall Chinese imports of computers into the United States increased 115.39% through February. Slightly more than half are laptops with the remainder desktops, storage devices and other more niche categories.

In that group of six, trade at No. 2-ranked O’Hare is up $9.51 billion, or more than one-third of the total.

Trade at No. 4-ranked JFK was up $5.56 billion. Trade at No. 1 Port of Los Angeles was up $4.63 billion.

Those first three accounted for about two-thirds of the $27.81 billion increase. 

It’s telling that the top six with double-digit growth include three airports and three seaports but neither of the top two border crossings in the top 10.

 No. 3-ranked Port Laredo’s trade fell ever-so slightly through February, down less than 1 percent.

 Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge, ranked sixth, saw its trade fall slightly more than 6 percent.

 In fact, to find a border crossing with double-digit growth like the three top 10 airports and three top 10 seaports, you have to look to the Pharr International Bridge.

 Pharr, which ranked No. 30 at this time last year, moved up to No. 27 with trade growth of 21.95 percent.