Methodology and technical information for the Origin-of-Movement State and State of Destination methodologies used to calculate state-level U.S. trade
Last Published: 7/21/2016

Information on U.S. exports of merchandise is compiled from the Electronic Export Information (EEI) filed by the USPPI or their agents through the Automated Export System (AES). These data measure the physical movement of merchandise out of the United States to foreign countries. Information on the state from which the merchandise was shipped has been collected and made available since the 1980s. 

Beginning with January 2010 statistics, a state-level goods import data series was also made available. Changes to the import reporting requirements along with the growth of electronic reporting and a better understanding of the data's limitations made it possible to bring back the import state of destination series. 


Origin of Movement (OM) State - Based on Origin State

In 1985, a new field indicating the state where the export journey begins, was added. This field allowed the compilation of the State of Origin of Movement Series. The OM series based on origin state, available since 1987, provides export statistics based on the state from which the merchandise starts its journey to the port of export; that is, the data reflect the transportation origin of exports. This is the methodology used to tabulate state-level export statistics in databases such as TradeStats Express.


In certain cases, the origin of movement is not the transportation origin. Whenever shipments are consolidated, the state of origin of movement will reflect the consolidation point. This effect is particularly noticeable for agricultural shipments. Intermediaries located in inland states ship agricultural commodities down the Mississippi River for export from the port of New Orleans. In this case, they would report Louisiana, the state where the port of New Orleans is located, as the state of origin of movement.

The primary impact is on the state distribution of nonmanufactured exports, which are generally exported by intermediaries. The most visible result is a tendency to understate exports from some agricultural states and to overstate exports from states like Louisiana that have ports that handle high-value shipments of farm products.

The series does not represent the production origin of U.S. export merchandise. In some cases considerable manufactured exports are attributed to states that are known to have little manufacturing capability. One reason is that commodities produced by out-of-state suppliers can be shipped from in-state distribution centers. Another factor is shipments of manufactured commodities from in-state 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 in the OM series.


State of Destination (SD) Series

Effective with January 2010 statistics, a state-level goods import data series was made available. An earlier series had been reported in the mid-1980s, but was discontinued due to quality concerns. However, changes to the import reporting requirements along with the growth of electronic reporting and a better understanding of the data's limitations made it possible to bring back the import state of destination series. 

This new series is based upon the U.S. State of Destination Code. This is defined as the U.S. state, U.S. territory or U.S. possession where the merchandise is destined, as known at the time of entry summary filing. If the contents of the shipment are destined to more than one state, territory, or possession, or if the entry summary represents a consolidated shipment, report the state of destination with the greatest aggregate value. If in either case, this information is unknown, the state of the ultimate consignee, or the state where the entry is filed, in that order, should be reported. However, before either of these alternatives is used, a good faith effort should be made by the entry filer to ascertain the state where the imported merchandise will be delivered. In all cases, the state code reported should be derived from the standard postal two-letter state or territory abbreviation. For shipments into FTZ’s, the import state represents the location of the zone.


In certain cases, the state of destination may not reflect the final location for which the imported goods are destined. Rather for these shipments, the state of destination, as known at the time the entry documentation is filed, may reflect an intermediary, storage or distribution point. From there, these shipments may later be distributed to another location in another state as the ultimate destination. For example, a consolidated shipment of many automobiles may be shipped by the importing company to a distribution point in one state with the intent of later shipping the automobiles to numerous states for final sale.


Trade Balances

Data users should keep in mind that import and export transactions are compiled with the state information recorded at time the goods enter or leave the United States. This timing produces reporting limitations as outlined in the previous paragraphs, namely that export origin of movement may not always imply production origin and import destination may not always reflect where the goods are consumed or used. In addition the trade data do not provide information to track or monitor interstate flows. Given these conditions, the concept of calculating trade balances at the state level, using destination and origin state data is problematic and may produce unintended results.

As a result, without some more in depth knowledge of individual state trade patterns available to the user, the calculations of state trade balances is discouraged.

U.S. Census Bureau, "State Data Series."