Updated March 25 at 12:26pm

R.I. exports up in 1Q but fall in March from February


PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island exports increased 1.8 percent in March to $212.6 million compared with the same month in 2011. In addition, driven by a record level of exports in February, the state recorded a 9.5 percent year-over-year increase in first-quarter exports, ranking the Ocean State 27th in the nation in growth for the period, according to an international trade statistics report from e-forecasting.com.

Year-over-year, on the month overseas sales from Rhode Island factories dropped 0.9 percent compared with March 2011.

“The historical relation between production and jobs for state manufacturers indicates that one in every five factory jobs in [Rhode Island] depends on the volume of foreign sales of manufactured goods,” said Evangelos Simos, chief economist for e-forecasting.com, in a report.

“For every 100 manufacturing jobs tied to state exports of manufactured goods, an additional 53 jobs in the state’s non-manufacturing businesses are generated in supporting the production and distribution of exports,” said Simos.

“International trade links the ups and downs of the global economy with Rhode Island's exporters, thus having effects on company production activity, sales, profits and most important local jobs,” said Simos.

In its latest economic outlook, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said that “the global economy is, once again, trying to return to growth, helped by a modest pick-up of trade and an improvement in confidence.”

In the first quarter of 2012, U.S. exports of goods hit $389 billion, a 7.7 percent increase of $27.7 billion year-over-year from the first three months of 2011.

Angel Gurra, OECD Secretary-General, said that while prospects for the global economy are in better shape than they were six months ago, "on closer inspection the global economic recovery is weak, considerable downside risks remain and sizeable imbalances have yet to be addressed."

“The projections on global growth and trade suggest an expected weakening in export orders for Rhode Island companies. Led by worsening foreign demand, production activity at the state level is forecast to slow down and, as a result, several export-related jobs may be lost in 2012,” said Simos.

In fact, the tepid increase in March’s exports compared with a year earlier was reflected in the decline from the previous month. Exports from Rhode Island plunged 19.9 percent in March after reaching a record high of $265.5 million in February, compared with a surge of $84.8 million from January to February.

Manufactured goods accounted for 69 percent of all state exports, up from 56 percent in February.

Foreign shipments from Rhode Island manufacturers decreased 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted volume of $145.9 million from February to March.

Exports of non-manufactured goods, including agricultural and mining products, dropped 42.8 percent to $66.7 million from February to March.

Nationally, U.S. exports of goods rose by a seasonally adjusted 3.7 percent in March to $132.7 billion from the previous month.


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