For those who fret that few products anymore come with a stamp reading Made in the U.S.A., don’t lose hope: American exports are at their highest level in over a decade, according to a report by the Brookings Institution.
Between 2009 and 2010—the official end of the recession, thought it’s understandable if you didn’t notice—American exports grew by over 10 percent, the sort of spurt not seen since 1997. Meanwhile, about 600,000 jobs were created in related fields like supply and commercial transportation, even as employment dropped in most other industries.
The boom had an especially positive effect on cities—Metro areas accounted for about two-thirds of the country’s export sales, and now nine U.S. metros, including Chicago, Houston and Boston, each have more than 100,000 export-supported jobs (New York and Los Angeles came out on top in that department, with each metro area enjoying over 300,000 such jobs). Of the top five most populous cities, only Philadelphia failed to rank in the top five exporting metros.
Manufacturers can take the news as reason to look up. According to the study, manufacturing contributed over three-quarters of export growth in metro areas. That number reaches 85 percent in Midwestern areas, and for some—like Milwaukee, Youngstown, Ohio and Grand Rapids, Mich.—over 90 percent of their manufacturing industry went toward exports. Perhaps this explains why some cities have done reasonably well restoring manufacturing in their local economies.
What are we making to ship overseas, exactly? Cars, chemicals and gadgets, mostly. The categories “transportation equipment,” “chemicals,” “machinery” and “computer and electronic products” make up over 60 percent of all U.S. exports—good news mostly for the Midwest and the coasts. Seattle and San Francisco, for instance, ranked highly for cities of their size, presumably due to all the flight equipment and tech products produced in those areas. And Detroit made over $500 million selling cars to China, so maybe Clint Eastwood was right.