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Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Connecticut Exports Fell 15 Percent in 2020

  • Connecticut sees significant decline in exports in 2020, particularly in aircraft parts and trade with France
  • COVID-19 pandemic fuels a surge of exports in pharmaceutical products, while trade with the Netherlands sees a modest increase
  • Connecticut was 28th in the nation for exports in 2020

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Exports from Connecticut businesses fell considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an annual review of the state’s export performance by the Connecticut Department of Labor. Some shipments bucked this trend, with a surge in pharmaceutical exports and an increase in trade to the Netherlands.

Connecticut exports were down 15.03 percent in 2020, falling from $16.24 billion in 2019 to $13.8 billion. The decline cut across all of the state’s largest exports, including aircraft parts, industrial machinery, electrical machinery, special classification provisions (primarily exports of repaired imports), and optic, photo, medical, or surgical instruments.

With air travel seeing a precipitous decline in 2020, exports of aircraft parts saw the largest decrease with a 30.27 percent year-over-year drop, from $6.26 billion to $4.37 billion. Special classification provisions were down 26.03 percent, from $775.2 million to $573.45 million. Exports classified as mineral fuel, bitumen substances, and mineral wax fell 25.78 percent, from $228.97 million to $169.94 million.

Conversely, the pandemic contributed to a surge in exports of pharmaceutical products from Connecticut, which increased 138.32 percent from $188.38 million to $448.95 million. Exports classified as miscellaneous chemical products saw a more modest increase, rising 7.58 percent from $196.36 million to $211.23 million.

Among Connecticut’s 10 top trading partners, the trade with France saw its steepest drop in 2020. Exports to this nation were more than halved, falling 51.91 percent, from $1.86 million to $894.35 million.

The Netherlands was the one nation among Connecticut’s top 10 trading partners were exports were up, increasing 9.08 percent from $775.24 million to $845.65 million. This boost was attributed to an increase in shipments of chemical products, oral dental hygiene products, and mixtures of substances for food and drink.

In the United States as a whole, exports fell 12.89 percent from $1.64 trillion to $1.43 trillion in 2020. All but four states saw their trade figures fall during the year, and Connecticut ranked 28th in exports.

Due to a lag in data, the Connecticut DOL was unable to determine any difference in the  number of exporting companies compared to pre-pandemic levels. The most recent data shows that 5,736 Connecticut companies were exporting in 2018, with 88 percent of them classified as small or medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees. A total of 65,140 Connecticut jobs were supported by the export trade in 2016.

The Connecticut DOL report also noted how there are ongoing efforts at the federal and state level to promote exporting as a way of supporting business growth. The Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development administers the State Trade Expansion Promotion grant award from the U.S. Small Business Administration, an incentive aimed at increasing the number of exporters and export sales.

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