The Southeastern Economy in 2009
Trade Props Up the Economy
For the past two years, international trade has been a key driver of U.S. economic growth. The U.S. economy barely expanded during 2008, but without overseas trade, gross domestic product (GDP) would have declined during the same period. Demand for U.S.-made goods from major trading partners such as Canada and the European Union primarily drove the increase. In addition, the weak U.S. dollar, which started depreciating in 2002, made U.S. companies more competitive abroad.
While exports increased at a fast pace, imports slowed. The United States began to buy fewer imported goods as their prices increased because of the weaker dollar. Consumers opted for relatively cheaper U.S.-made goods, boosting the domestic manufacturing industry.
Ports see more traffic in 2008
Gulf Coast ports in the region are not far behind this rate of growth. The Port of Mobile is adding container capacity to accommodate increased shipments generated by the new $4.2 billion ThyssenKrupp steel processing plant, which will begin production in Mobile, Ala., in 2010. The port's container traffic has also benefited in recent years from increased rail-to-barge trade with ports in the Gulf of Mexico.
Robust global demand propels ports
For the same period, the value of imports into the region rose nearly 18 percent, an increase mostly driven by higher import prices, especially for commodities. Although import values across regional ports rose, import volumes fell from year-earlier levels.
Looking ahead to 2009
Andrew Flowers, Laurel Graefe, Julie Hotchkiss, Whitney Mancuso, Kate Rees, Navnita Sarma, Menbere Shiferaw, and Gustavo Uceda of the Atlanta Fed's research department and Brian Bowling and Carl Hudson of the Atlanta Fed's supervision and regulation department contributed to this article.