by the numbers
Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Houston is demonstrating its might in the global economy.
In 2021, exports from the Houston area reached a record-breaking $140.8 billion, according to a report from the Greater Houston partnership. The previous record, set in 2019, was $128.7 billion. The Houston-Galveston Customs District, comprising eight ports, now handles more tonnage (over 351.5 million metric tons in 2021) than it did before the pandemic.
“COVID had a short-lived impact on Houston’s exports,” the report says.
The report suggests the region’s export activity supports more than 450,000 direct and indirect jobs here.
According to the report, the Houston metro area leads all U.S. metros for the value of exports. It ranks well above New York City ($103.9 billion), Los Angeles ($58.6 billion), Chicago ($54.5 billion), and Dallas-Fort Worth ($43.2 billion). Houston’s top exports include chemicals, plastics, crude oil, and oilfield equipment.
“As retailers work to rebuild their inventories, as factories struggle to resolve supply chain issues, as the global economy continues to grow, so will the demand for Houston’s exports, and so will Houston employment,” the report says.
The report cites four factors that will continue to drive Houston’s export activity, at least in the short term:
- U.S. companies are still rebuilding inventories and need to bring in more goods from overseas.
- Some container traffic has started to shift to Houston from congested areas like Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.
- The Houston area continues to grow as a distribution center. Developers have added more than 96 million square feet of warehouse space in the region over the past five years.
- Houston is once again among the most rapidly growing metros, “which will drive the need for more consumer goods, most of which will arrive in a container via the Port of Houston.”
Houston’s top 10 trade partners and the value of that trade in 2021 were:
- China — $24.7 billion, up from $19.3 billion in 2020.
- Mexico — $21.6 billion, up from $14.5 billion in 2020.
- Brazil — $16.9 billion, up from $12.0 billion in 2020.
- Korea — $16.2 billion, up from $9.5 billion in 2020.
- India — $13.9 billion, up from $8.0 billion in 2020.
- Netherlands — $13.8 billion, up from $9.5 billion in 2020.
- Germany — $11.9 billion, up from $9.5 billion in 2020.
- Japan — $11.5 billion, up from $7.7 billion in 2020.
- United Kingdom — $9.8 billion, up from $7.6 billion in 2020.
- Columbia — $7.1 billion, up from $5.3 billion in 2020.
“Houston’s ties to the globally economy have grown with the city. In many ways, those ties propelled Houston’s growth. The region’s fortune now rise and fall with those of the global economy,” the report says.