State exports grew 1.3% over the year and topped $8 billion for the first time.
The second quarter was a quiet one. Tennessee's global shipments increased by $106 million, an anemic 1.3% gain from a year ago, but this sluggish performance was not unique. Total American exports grew just 1.6% over this same period. Though it was the first quarter in which state exports exceeded $8 billion, there was actually very little change in their composition or destination.
A disproportionate amount of what action there was involved China. Overall, state exports to China rose only a modest 4% (to $641 million), but this hides several large gains and losses. Cotton shipments to China dropped by more than $100 million (from $148 to $43 million), enough to make cotton one of the state's poorest-performing goods for the quarter. However, at the same time, other textile and apparel related exports soared. Exports of nonwoven textiles increased by nearly 500%, sales of polyesters doubled, and artificial filament tow was up by a fifth. These gains clawed back half the losses from cotton. To them the state added significantly increased sales of orthopedic goods, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and motor vehicles enough to push the quarter's total into the black.
China's purchases of nonwoven textiles powered that product to the strongest global growth of any of Tennessee's larger exporting sectors. Total nonwoven exports nearly doubled for the quarter (from $53 to $103 million). Other strong sectors included the aluminum industry, which also crossed the $100 million mark for the second quarter (a 64% gain) thanks to increased shipments to Canada and Mexico. Orthopedic goods also turned in very good numbers, mostly due to a huge increase in sales to Japan. Japan purchases surged more than $35 million, accounting for 40% of the industry's global increase in sales. China, Australia, and India were other strong markets for the state's orthopedics industry.
The automotive sector did well this past quarter, if not spectacularly so. Car exports grew from $376 to $395 million in the second quarter. The Netherlands and South Korea joined China in accounting for most of this growth. However, Tennessee's two largest automotive destinations, Canada and the Gulf states, were both down a bit for the quarter, dampening the global gain. Shipments of car engines were up about 10%, but those of most other auto or engine parts fell slightly or were flat.
Tennessee Trade-Weighted Dollar Index
Tennessee Monthly Exports