Imports fell 6.2% to $232.2 billion as transportation and shipping began to shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. US exports had an even sharper decline, plunging 9.6% to $187.7 billion amid dwindling orders for American aircraft parts, industrial machines, and automobiles. Also included in that figure is a $10 billion drop in the export of American transport and travel services like airfares. With international travel mostly grounded, the US exported $13.7 billion in such services in March compared with $23.9 billion the month prior.
Transport and travel service imports declined 51% from $20.8 billion in February to $10.1 billion in March. Imports of consumer goods dropped from $51.3 billion to $47.3 billion, including a $2.5 billion drop in cellphone and household goods.
Trade deficits also shifted in March. The trade deficit with China fell 21.3% to $15.5 billion—the lowest level since the Great Recession.
Exports to China rose $0.3 billion to $7.8 billion, while monthly imports dropped $3.9 billion to $23.2 billion. Earlier this year, the United States and China reached a new trade agreement. China was also the ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak and had a two-month lockdown earlier this year.
As parts of the United States emerge from various levels of pandemic lockdown, government trade figures can provide clues on the extent to which the economy is recovering.