Every State’s Most Valuable Export

Eighty feet below lower Manhattan is a massive vault containing, as of 2019, nearly a half-million gold bars. What sounds like a setup to a heist film is in real life the basement of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where the U.S. and foreign governments, other central banks, and some international organizations safely store their gold assets.

Because of New York City’s central role in maintaining custody of a big chunk of the world’s unwrought gold reserves, these metal bars are New York state’s most valuable export. For example, in 2013, so much gold stored near Wall Street was repatriated to South Africa that it caused a temporary $689 million trade deficit with the United States. 

Two other states – Nevada and Utah – have gold as their top export, but for a different reason – they have gold mines. In Utah, gold from those mines made up about 46% of the total value of the state’s exports last year, larger than its other big export categories: medical devices, prepared foods, and auto parts.

To determine the top export by state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on exports from the U.S. Census Bureau’s USA Trade Online platform. Products, as identified by the Harmonized System categorization method, were ranked based on their total export value, measured by their origin (rather than by where they left the country), in 2021. (The Harmonized System comprises more than 5,000 commodity groups, each identified by a six digit code. We chose the 4-digit level of detail.)

The top exports category of 11 states, including Kentucky, Arkansas, and Connecticut, is civilian aircraft, making up between 13% and 29% of the value of total exports from those states. In nine states, fossil fuels are their top exported products, including three coal-producing states, Montana, Virginia, and West Virginia.

More than $62 billion worth of crude oil was exported from Texas last year, representing nearly 17% of all exports from the country’s second largest state by population and geographic size. As a major refiner, the Lone Star state’s top import is also crude oil. (These are the countries most dependent on the oil trade.)

Wyoming is the state most dependent on a single export. About 66% of the total value of its exports are from carbonates, such as soda ash, a vital industrial chemical ingredient. (These are major cities dominated by one industry.)

Click here for the top export of every state

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