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Updated February 14, 2005

All state export statistics in this report are drawn from the Census Bureau's Origin of Movement (OM) state export series. The OM series is based on information supplied by U.S. exporters on official Shippers Export Declarations (SEDs) for goods leaving the United States. All statistics in the OM series are on a free-alongside-ship (f.a.s.) basis and include both domestic exports and re-exports.

The OM series seeks to measure state exports on the basis of transportation origin—i.e., the location from which exports begin their journey to the port (or other point) of exit from the United States.

The OM series covers exports of merchandise only. Exports of services are excluded from the data. Also, OM statistics are available only at the state level. There are currently no equivalent figures for exports by metropolitan areas, counties, zip codes, or other sub-state areas.

Similarly, no OM statistics are available for state-level imports. The collection of state import data presents enormous technical challenges, since it would require tracking foreign goods through the US wholesale and retail distribution systems. Consequently, it is not currently possible—using OM data or any other US trade data—to calculate state trade balances.

The OM series covers direct exports only. A direct export is one consisting of final goods shipped to a destination outside the United States. So-called indirect exports are excluded from the data. Indirect exports are typically intermediate goods, parts, or other inputs that are shipped within the United States, and subsequently incorporated in final export goods. Such shipments represent domestic transactions; they are not considered exports in US trade statistics.

Also, cross-border shipments made by foreign affiliates of US companies (e.g., a shipment from a French subsidiary to a German customer) are not US exports. These transactions may affect the finances of US firms and reflect a global business strategy, but they are not exports. Exports include only goods and services that are outbound from the United States and which transit its borders.

The OM series was not designed to measure the state distribution of US export production or export-related jobs. The focus is transportation origin, not manufacturing origin.

There are nonetheless many cases when the state origin of movement and the state of production happen to be the same. The origin of movement and origin of production often coincide because many manufacturers ship exports directly from the factory gate, or from a nearby distribution facility.

There is no listing of states for which the OM series is a good proxy for export production. Additional research is needed in this area. As a general rule, however, it appears that the OM series is indicative of export production when (1) intermediaries are minor exporters in a state, (2) manufacturers—especially single-establishment firms— dominate exports, and (3) the state is a known producer of the goods being exported.

The OM series in some cases will show considerable manufactured exports from states known to have little manufacturing capability. This is partly attributable to export marketing by in-state intermediaries. These exporters frequently ship manufactures produced by out-of-state suppliers from instate distribution centers. Another factor is shipments of manufactures from instate warehouses and other distribution centers that are arranged by exporters located out-of-state. In both cases, manufactured exports from the non-industrial state are magnified on an origin-of-movement basis.

Another limitation of the OM series is that, in certain cases, it falls short of its goal of measuring transportation origin. The problem stems from the fact that many intermediaries have traditionally listed the state in which they are located—which is not necessarily the origin of movement—as the "state of origin" on SEDs. For many other transactions, intermediaries specify the state location of the port of exit, which very often is not the state where goods began their export journey.

The result is significant inconsistencies in the state-level allocation of exports sold by intermediaries. The primary impact is on the state distribution of non-manufactured exports—where intermediaries are overwhelmingly dominant. Most affected is the allocation of exports of farm products, minerals, and other bulk commodities, virtually all of which are sold abroad by intermediaries. The impact on manufactured exports is much more limited, due to the fact that intermediaries account for only about one-third of US exports of manufactures.

The most visible result of the problem is a tendency to understate exports from agricultural states and inflate exports from states having ports that handle high-value shipments of farm products (e.g., Louisiana).

Yet another data issue is that some shippers fail to fill in the "state of origin" block on the SED, or furnish invalid or illegible entries. Consequently, the Census Bureau is presently unable to determine the state origin of movement for about five percent of the value of U.S. exports.

These notes appear as part of each report drawing on the OM data series. The version on this page is the most up-to-date. In older reports the wording may differ somewhat.

U.S. Exports to Australia: A State Perspective

NAFTA: A State Export Perspective, 1993–2003 (PDF)

U.S. Exports to Morocco: A State Perspective (PDF)

U.S. Exports to Bahrain: A State Perspective (PDF)

CAFTA-DR: A State Export Overview, 1999–2003

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For additional information on the OM series, visit the Census Bureau's website at

Last Updated: 8/25/15 5:46 PM

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