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Exports from U.S. Metropolitan Areas
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. Q: How is a metropolitan area defined?
A: All metropolitan Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA) export numbers in these tables were tabulated by matching the five-digit zip codes entered on U.S. export declarations with the five-digit zip codes specified for each metropolitan CBSA using concordance files from the Census Bureau’s Geography Division and the U.S. Postal Service. The boundaries of official metropolitan CBSAs are county-based and are defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). A comprehensive listing of the areas is available from OMB and delineation files for current and historical definitions are available from the Census Bureau.
2. Q: How often are metropolitan areas updated?
A: Metropolitan areas are redefined every 10 years based on population counts taken during the 10-year Census. The metropolitan areas referenced in the 2005 to 2012 data are based on the 2000 Census. The metropolitan areas referenced in the 2013 data are based on the 2010 Census.
3. Q: Why are data only available since 2005?
A: In order to assign exports to a specific metropolitan area, the Census Bureau must collect and analyze data for the exports on a zip code basis. Data collection on this basis began in 2005, making this the earliest year for which data are available.
4. Q: There was an earlier series that had metropolitan export data. Why was this series discontinued in 2001?
A: The earlier series was based on the Exporter Location Series collected by the Census Bureau from shipper’s export declarations. With the introduction of the Automated Export System by the U.S. Customs Bureau and the Census Bureau, the accuracy of the Exporter Location Series became highly suspect, and the series was discontinued. Measurement of exports by metropolitan area was not again possible until the introduction of the zip-based Origin of Movement series in 2005.
5. Q: Can data be compared between the 2001 and the 2005 series?
A: No. The 2001 data are based on Exporter Location Series and the 2005 data are based on the Origin of Movement (OM) series. No comparisons should be made between the two.
6. Q: What is the Origin of Movement series?
A: The OM series measures export statistics based on the location from which the merchandise starts its journey to the port of export. For the metropolitan export data, the origin is determined by the zip code of the U.S. Principle Party of Interest (the entity that receives the primary monetary benefit from the export). This differs from the state export series, which is based on the physical location where the goods began their journey to the port of export.
7. Q: Does the metropolitan export series measure exports of services?
A: No, the metropolitan export data series measures only the dollar value of merchandise exports (goods that can physically be transported across the border). At this time, there is no way to measure services exports by metropolitan area.
8. Q: Is the metropolitan export series ever revised?
A: At this time, no revisions are made to the metropolitan export data for data timing or errata adjustments issued by the Census Bureau. The national total for goods exports based on the metropolitan export series will only match other unrevised sources.
9. Q: Are the export values available in the metropolitan export series adjusted for any factors such as seasonality or prices?
A: The metropolitan export data are only available in nominal U.S. dollars. The dollar values that are reported are not adjusted for inflation or any other factors.
11. Q: Will the export data ever be made available down to the zip code or county level?
A: Data is available for the value of exports on the 3-digit zip code level through our Exporter Database resource. Due to federal government suppression restrictions, however, distribution of export data by 5-digit zip code is not possible. With the release of the 2012 data, we now have data by individual counties for the top 50 metropolitan area exporters. If you wish to purchase trade data for a county not listed, please contact the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division.
12. Q: Are data available to measure metropolitan area imports?
A: No. A newer State Import Series is available that measures goods imports down to a state level. The zip code information needed to track the imports at a metropolitan area level is not collected at this time.
13. Q: Is the metropolitan export data the same as Custom District or port data?
A: No. Customs District and port data only measure goods that leave out of a particular district or port (regardless of where the good originated in the United States). Since the metropolitan export data is based on the Origin of Movement series, this data attempts to track the export back to its origin of export (regardless of where the good actually leaves the country). For example, in the metropolitan series, a good that began its journey to export from Chicago will be attributed to Chicago, even if the good left the country from the port of Miami or Los Angeles.
14. Q: Does the metropolitan export series give production data?
A: No. The metropolitan series allocates exports to metropolitan areas based on the address of the United States Principal Party in Interest (USPPI) of record. The USPPI of record is not necessarily the entity that produced the merchandise; hence, the series does not furnish complete and reliable data on the production origin of U.S. exports.
15. Q: Why is my metropolitan area not listed on the table for ‘Metro Exports Value Percent Share of State’?
A: Percent share of a state's exports cannot be calculated for metropolitan areas that cross state boundaries. Please refer to the OMB definitions for your metropolitan area to confirm that the area contains counties from more than one state. This is also evident in the metropolitan area’s name in other tables on our site. For instance, the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD metropolitan area contains data from select counties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.
16. Q: On the table containing ‘Metro Exports by Destination’, why is data available for multiple destinations that may contain several of the same countries? Can these destinations be added together?
A: The world destinations that we chose reflect the groupings that are relevant to ITA's varied client base. These world destinations are based on political, economic, and geographic groupings. Some countries may be members of multiple groups; therefore, values for country groups cannot be summed to arrive at meaningful totals.
17. Q: Why is data not available for certain metropolitan areas?
A: Because of U.S. laws that preclude disclosure of confidential business data provided to the federal government, it is necessary for the U.S. Census Bureau to completely suppress the totals for certain metropolitan CBSAs each year. The totals for these metropolitan CBSAs are folded into a category labeled "other metropolitan areas”. In 2015, export totals for three metropolitan CBSAs were suppressed: Tuscaloosa, AL; Flagstaff, AZ; and Tuscaloosa, AL. For information on suppressions in prior years of data, please see the methodology associated with the Metropolitan Export Series.
18. Q: Why is country detail only available for the top 50 metropolitan areas?
A: Due to time and cost restrictions, ITA was forced to put some limitations on the data that we requested from the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau puts considerable time and resources into collecting the data and analyzing it to be sure that no information is disclosed that may identify an individual company or exporter. To expedite the release of the data and keep costs reasonable, ITA requested that we receive country detail for only the top 50 metropolitan areas. If your metropolitan area falls outside the top 50, you may be able to purchase this country detail from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division.
19. Q: Can I get export data from my metropolitan area to more than just the top 5 countries?
A: Our database is limited to only the top 5 countries for the top 50 metropolitan areas. Additional country detail may be available for purchase from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division.
20. Q: Can I compare data from the metropolitan series to state data from other sources, such as TradeStats Express or USA Trade Online?
A: No. The metropolitan series should only be compared to other sources that also use the Origin of Movement zip code based series. Both TradeStats Express and USA Trade Online publish their export data on an Origin of Movement state-basis. State totals on a zip-basis can be found on the Census Bureau’s website.
21. Q: Can I get metropolitan export data for all countries and all product categories to each metropolitan area?
A: Due to time and cost considerations, we were forced to put some limitations on the data that we requested from the Census Bureau therefore we were not able to obtain all of this data for our database. Additional country and product detail may be available for purchase from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division, please contact them for details.
22. Q: Why are there a number of metro area changes starting in the year 2013?
A: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updates the criteria for delineating metropolitan areas once every ten years in conjunction with new population estimates from the decennial census. The 2013 data was the first year to reflect updated metro areas based on the 2010 Census. As a result, some areas no longer met the criteria to be considered a metropolitan area and there are a number of new metropolitan areas starting in 2013. More information can be found online from OMB and the Census Bureau.