US-Canada Bilateral Trade Balance in Goods and Services at Quarterly Frequency

Is the trend more important than if there is actually a surplus or deficit, as one commenter suggests? On a bilateral basis, I don’t think either is particularly important, but as a matter of fact I think we need to verify that the US-Canada bilateral trade balance in goods and services is (barely) positive in 2017, and trending upward on a quarterly basis.

Figure 1: US-Canada trade balance in 000’s US$, s.a. (blue), and 12 quarter trailing moving average (red). NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: BEA, NBER, author’s calculations.

34 thoughts on “US-Canada Bilateral Trade Balance in Goods and Services at Quarterly Frequency

  1. pgl

    Much of the reason why our trade deficit with Canada fell is due to the decline in energy related imports. I guess if Trump can ever figure out how to massively increase those high paying jobs mining coal – we could enjoy a bilateral surplus.

    1. Moses Herzog

      @ pgi
      Hey, watch that dirty talk now. Look at this idiot in the video link just below, walking around the house with his oxygen tank—had to go thru 4+ years of litigation to get his black lung covered in his health benefits. Ed Hanson and PeakIgnorance call this “the American Dream”. Who else is ready to sign up for black lung, connecting themselves to an oxygen tank and dragging the oxygen tank with them to the kitchen and the toilet and then paying a lawyer for 4 years of litigation??

      But no worries for the VSG, Donald Trump, there’s always MORE poor and uneducated morons ready to go to the back of line and sign up to get their heads bashed in with a baseball bat and say “thank you” and start the community wide circle jerk all over again.

      I watch these people show how damned dumb they are, waving their “Look at me!!! I’m a complete imbecilic moron!!!!” flag high in the air on TV and I think to myself— “I bet those people selling their California homes for hundreds of thousands of dollars to put in the bank and move to Arizona or Oregon are just kicking themselves they don’t have black lung and can cart around an oxygen tank around their new house.” Why not sign up to get your head beat in with a Stanley brand hammer?? I bet I could get 20 West Virginians to sign up to get their head beat in with a Stanley hammer before noon tomorrow if I put an orange colored rodent on my forehead and told them it was part and parcel of “MAGA”.

  2. Moses Herzog

    Outside of possibly Britain, who has been America’s greatest ally through thick and thin?? (I’m not including Israel here because we rarely get the reciprocal respect from the Israeli government, and certainly don’t get the reciprocal respect from the corrupt Benjamin Netanyahu headed government). The Netanyahu government—which has denied the travel visas of Americans Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky for daring to tell the truth of Israeli war crimes, etc….but I digress…..

    But before you answer the question of who is America’s greatest ally, riddle yourself this question: “Who else (other than Canada) during a non-war situation, would risk their own citizens lives to save Americans???” I can tell you—that laundry list wouldn’t take up the fingers on one hand. These were the Canadians that risked their lives for Americans:

    Ambassador Taylor and his wife Patricia Taylor
    Immigration officer Sheardown and his wife Zena Sheardown
    Mary Catherine O’Flaherty – communications officer
    Roger Lucy – political officer and first secretary for the Canadian Embassy.
    Laverna Katie Dollimore – personal secretary for Ambassador Taylor

    Some Americans will never forget that. ALL Americans should never forget that. Of course if you’re a swollen an*s hole like Donald Trump, you probably don’t even know it ever happened.

    1. pgl

      They threw in everything but the kitchen sink in that discussion of oil prices. It is true that oil prices are on the rise after years of being low. And to the degree that oil prices are up – U.S. domestic production will also rise. Which means less imports of Canadian oil aka a further increase in our bilateral trade balance with Canada!

      1. Steven Kopits

        Having said that, the linked Project Syndicate article is a bit of a tourist piece. Ms. Reinhart is not a regular on the oil circuit. Her co-author, presumably her husband, might be more at home in oil, but his name is not familiar to me in the oil fundamentals analysis business.

        I would say this piece stays on the fairway, but just on it.

    1. noneconomist

      SK: Some notes on the article and California
      1. Affordable housing is the number one concern of many here. Even more, IMO, than the cost of living which is, as we all know, more expensive than most other states. Housing especially affects younger Californians, even those whose job skills qualify them for higher wages and salaries. (Recent studies have show a decrease in the number of available jobs paying $50,000/yr. or less and an increase in the number of jobs paying $100,000/yr. and more. For either group, housing costs seem to be a driving force in out-migration.
      2. Trumpers are hard at work attempting to repeal the additional 12 cents/gal. gas tax, apparently unaware their leader wants matching state funds for infrastructure improvements. Perfectly logical, I suppose, for them to seek repeal and later add, oh maybe, a 12 cents/gallon tax to satisfy federal/state sharing.
      3. Middle class income taxes are more favorable than in surrounding states. In California, joint filers with a $100,000 taxable income (after deductions but before exemptions) would owe $4,115. That same couple in Oregon would owe $8,528, in Idaho $6,891, and in Utah $5,000. Depending on which data you accept, the median family income in California is around $67,000.
      4. California is a 3rd world country? Sounds like a one of those s___holes so much in the news lately. If California is 3rd world, wonder what that make Russia, whose GDP is over a $Trillion less or Texas, whose percentage of foreign born citizens rivals California’s?
      5. Devin Nunes CD has an over 8% unemployment rate, as does that of his next door neighbor, Kevin McCarthy (Trump’s “My Kevin”). Conversely, the CD represented by communist/socialist/liberal Nancy Pelosi is hovering around 2.2%. Perhaps suggesting Mr. Nunes’ daughter and her education would be better served elsewhere than in Tulare County.
      6. Where to go? Rising housing costs are not unique to California. Reno and the Reno metro area (home to in-laws and friends) have seen dramatic increases in housing costs. In fact, medians in Reno and Sacramento are similar with costs rising faster in Reno. (Metro Sacramento is still more expensive). Las Vegas is still less expensive, but you have to be willing to endure about 4-5 months of 100+ weather (I’ve been there when it was 118) and hope the AC remains in working condition.
      7. San Luis Obispo to Vegas. No doubt costs will be less, but if you’ve ever spent any time on the Central Coast, it’s a move not lightly undertaken.
      8. Nevada. Many California retirees do move to Nevada because there’s no state income tax and costs are generally lower. But such a move also enables them to stay close to family who have remained here.
      9. Charles Dickens on California: It is the best of times. It is the worst of times….

      1. PeakTrader

        What’s unique to California is its large unskilled and below average skilled legal and illegal immigrant population. They drive down wages and drive up housing prices. Several immigrant families live in one house or four people live in a small apartment. They’re willing to work for less and some ride bicycles to work, because they can’t afford a car, when they’re not adding to traffic congestion. More people, mainly immigrants and their children, resulted in open spaces being replaced with mostly apartments and condos, while box stores, like Walmart, see more business. Many California natives are displaced, because they don’t want to work for $10 or $11 an hour. They may go to school instead, live in their parents basement till they’re 30 and collect food stamps, or move to another state. There seems to be white flight – only 10% of the Los Angeles Unified School District is non-Hispanic white. The quality of life has gone downhill big time in California, at least for most California natives.

        1. PeakTrader

          During the Industrial Revolution, immigrants had roughly the same skill level as the domestic population and the U.S. was a developing country.

          Recent immigrants had much lower skills than the domestic population and the U.S. is a developed country.

          1. Steven Kopits

            You can get pretty much any skill set you care to buy.

            If, however, you pretend that a black market in migrant labor can be beaten, then, sure, you’re going to get a lot of low skilled labor.

            Here’s what I’m working on:

            And curiously, I have appear to have the forecast of record for illegal immigration in 2018, courtesy Breitbart and the Washington Examiner.



        2. noneconomist

          Median Adjusted Income by County 2015 for Married Filing Jointly/California
          County Joint Returns Joint Median Income
          1. Marin 49,788 $149,321
          3. Santa Clara 367, 226 $130,393
          5. San Francisco 122, 397 $107,914
          7. Placer 81,654 $96,410
          8. El Dorado 36,867 $94,107
          9. Orange 541,392 $87,700
          20. Sacramento 223, 505 $75,808
          30. Riverside 350,013 $65,474
          40. Fresno 126,495 $59,284
          57. Tulare 59,728 $49,693
          58. Imperial 25,810 $41,359

          California Median Hourly Wage/2016 $19.67
          California Mean Hourly Wage/2016 $27.33
          California annual Mean wage $56,840

          Carpenters Median Hourly $25.24
          Construction Laborers ” $18.90
          Electricians $30.49
          Plumbers, Pipefitters $28.09
          Solar Installers $20.36
          Elevator Installer/Repairer $44.38

          Software Developers $58.04
          Computer Systems Analysts $48.77
          Information security Analysts $52.30

          Pharmacists $68.64
          Registered Nurses $48.30

          Farmworkers Farm and Ranch $13.08

          Exactly WHAT do you peak trade? Disinformation?

          1. noneconomist

            BTW, PT, California natives who will not work for $10 or $11/hr. have apparently not trained or educated themselves to attain higher paying jobs.
            The kid who just repaired my windshield is in an occupation where the mean hourly wage is $20.04/hr. And the very competent young man I know who’s doing auto body repair is earning $21/hr. after two years (and training) on the job.

          2. PeakTrader

            And, a single person earning $50,000 a year in California doesn’t live well, after taxes, rent, car expenses, etc.. In the LA or SF area, they live very poorly. It’s not just expenses, it’s the quality of life when poor countries are basically imported into the state and the older parts of cities become overcrowded. Many people move into the suburbs, ex-burbs, newer cities, or to another state. Of course, if you’re in the top 20% of income, it’s not too bad – you’re basically away from the struggling natives, who’s quality of life deteriorated over the past few decades. Many immigrants are better off compared to staying in their countries.

          3. noneconomist

            You’ve have an advanced degree in economics, PT? And you’ve proven precisely that millions of unskilled workers have devastated the California economy? That large numbers of otherwise employable Californians are sitting in their parents” basements ( difficult because lots of California homes constructed since the 50’s don’t have basements), and that, while the top 20% in California is doing well, the other 80% is on the brink economic ruin.
            Well, let’s see. There are, according to the latest BLS data, about $18.5 Million people employed in California. Of those, about 2.6 Million have government jobs (and we know how fabulously wealthy government workers are). That leaves 15.9 Million working in the private sector
            For ALL employees, the MEDIAN wage is near $20/hr. while the hourly mean wage is over $27. BLS numbers show 847,000 employed in construction, 1,318,000 employed in manufacturing , 2,600,000 employed in professional and business services, et. al. I’m not seeing lots of $10 and $11/hr. jobs there. (Median farm worker/ranch worker wage, remember, is $13.08/hr; these are jobs that could easily be filled by immigrants, including the undocumented but not, apparently, by those sitting in non-existent basements–with advanced economics degrees?–who won’t work for $10/hr.)
            Give me a break.

          4. PeakTrader

            Noneconomist, “living in parent’s basement” is a well known figure of speech.

            You seem to believe millions of lower skilled immigrants are making $20 an hour, drove down rents, and the state can accommodate them, and many more, with no problems.

            Obviously, you didn’t understand anything I wrote and didn’t read the links, including one-third of California’s workforce is in fields paying less than $12 an hour. And, $50,000 a year income is a struggle, given the high cost of living.

          5. PeakTrader

            A third of California’s workforce makes less than $13.63 an hour, which is considered “low wage jobs” and less than $12 an hour jobs are in most of the fastest growing fields.

          6. PeakTrader

            Moreover, there’s been a substantial erosion in benefits, or compensation, in low wage, and perhaps middle wage, jobs.

        3. pgl

          “What’s unique to California is its large unskilled and below average skilled legal and illegal immigrant population. ”

          Putting aside the racist nature of your latest rant – California is not “unique” here except maybe the word “large”. OK – California is the only such state with more than 39 million. Of course liars like you have told us that there is some mass exodus from California.

          But keep up the fact free racist rants. LORD!

          1. PeakTrader

            I knew you’d bring up race Pgl, along with making up lies.

            Race doesn’t matter to me, but you’re a one trick pony and that matters to you.

            Is that why you support policies that destroyed the black population in this country?

    2. Moses Herzog

      Strange how the higher unemployment rates in places like Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia don’t seem to bother them. All those listed above 4.5%.

      News flash: When you retire and the value of your home has appreciated vastly you may want to use some of that value to enjoy your retirement years. The Californians are selling their homes (with the connected property tax) to someone. At least most Californians are still “mobile” in the sense they can move to other locations. That means there is still demand for those homes. Ask people in sh*thole towns in West Virginia if their property tax is lower and how “easy” it is to sell their home. CNBC (or FOX “news” for that matter has no interest in reviewing that g*ddamned story.

      You also won’t see any stories on FOX news how California is ranked 4th in the nation in higher education and Massachusetts (a state tagged “ultra-liberal” as if it’s “the Scarlet A”) is ranked 1st in the nation in k-12 education.

      Ask the average idiot why he’s leaving town (in any state), he’s NOT going to say “at my age and with my archaic job skills, I cannot command the rate of salary I made 20 years ago”. He’s going to say “these mofo state and municipal taxes are eating me up.”

  3. Ed Hanson


    Thank-you for this post. I don’t get to quote the great Ronald Reagan very often. “There you go again.”

    This post of yours is so wrong in spirit and context, I hardly know where to begin. So I guess I will start with how it directly relates to my post you linked but did not quote; because, I believe if you had, it would of been so much easier for readers to see how you took my use of word ‘trend’ so completely out of context to absolutely change my meaning and our dialog. First, I repeat what I wrote to give some context. I wrote. “Canada is not the problem, you say so, I say so, and guess what, so does President Trump, remember he is the one who exempted Canada and Mexico.” Certainly not you, Menzie, as you wrote above, referring to trend, deficit and surplus, “On a bilateral basis, I don’t think either is particularly important”. But somehow this unimportant Canada thing has now been the supject of 4 topics initiated by you. I ask now for anyone within this blog community to post if they think Canada is the problem.

    So what is this trend I referred to. None but the one you referred to March1, 2018, titled,

    “January Goods Trade Balance Dives”

    This is what I wrote, “As for trend Menzie, it was your post March 1st that you gleefully proclaimed that you “had enough of “winning so much”. ” I repeat, that’s the trend, that’s the problem the President is working on.” Explain again to me how anything I wrote in the linked post that refers to a trend with Canada trade?

    Do I sound upset? I am, but so it goes.


    1. 2slugbaits

      Ed Hanson I read your comment and quite honestly I don’t quite understand what point you’re trying to make. FWIW, in general I don’t see why anyone should care about bilateral trade balances between any two countries, not just between the US and Canada. That said, I can see where changes in a bilateral trade balance might matter. For example, a sharp change from a deficit to a surplus (or vice versa) probably implies some kind of change in the composition of what’s being traded; and that change might spill over into a macroeconomic shock as labor and capital adjust to that changing composition. So you probably don’t want to see large changes over a relatively short timeframe because those changes might augur a macroeconomic shock that could lead to a recession. I don’t think that’s an especially large risk for an economy as large as ours, but I wouldn’t want to rule it out in the case of our trading with Canada and Mexico.

      1. pgl

        “in general I don’t see why anyone should care about bilateral trade balances between any two countries”.

        I’m running a huge deficit with my local grocery store. Until they start buying my consulting services, no more eating for me. Oh wait – that sounds like a horrible plan.

        Of course Trump runs a large deficit with McDonald’s – and he likely should stop buying their products.

      2. Moses Herzog

        I think the main point Ed Hanson was trying to make is, he’s gone thru his entire jar of Vaseline this month looking at the Ronald Reagan poster on his bedroom door.

    2. Moses Herzog

      @ EdHanson
      Now that the early Alzheimers Ronald Reagan has passed away from this Earth, this is a rough time for you Mr. Hanson. You need new [edited by MDC] material. I give you, as a gift, your new personal God to take away your blues (lubrication sold separately):

      1. Moses Herzog

        Menzie, you’re not going to ever believe this, but I always feel a slight tinge of guilt making you (as a Uni Prof and generally a good guy) waste time editing my “over the line comments” and at the same time it makes me chuckle a little. If you believe a person can indeed have these two feelings nearly simultaneously, you’d understand my personality pretty well.

  4. Moses Herzog

    This iss the famous quote from the know-nothing “leader” named Trump:
    “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

    How does that jive together with this number??
    “In San Diego, arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record are up 500 percent over the past two years. Arrests of convicted criminals are up only 7 percent.”

    Also from Kate Morrissey of the LA Times:
    “For other field offices along the border, the highest percentage of noncriminal arrests was 43% in Phoenix, where ICE took 733 people with no criminal histories into custody.
    Some attorneys speculated that ICE was pushing to make more arrests before SB 54, a California bill limiting local police cooperation with federal immigration officials, took effect in January.
    Other field offices in California did not reflect San Diego’s trend. In Los Angeles, ICE officers arrested 357 noncriminals, which was about 16% of the field office’s arrests. In San Francisco, officers arrested 373, which was about 22% of the field office’s arrests.
    Within days of taking office, President Trump expanded the agency’s enforcement priorities from those with serious criminal convictions to a broader list of people including those who had any criminal conviction, who had been charged but not convicted, who had done anything that could be charged as a crime, or who had already been ordered deported.
    According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis, noncriminal arrests increased 49% in San Diego in fiscal 2017. The Atlanta and Philadelphia field offices tied for the largest increase at 323%.”

    While these non-criminals are being arrested and separated from their family, let’s all hope Trump has enough time to phone his best friend Putin and text message his favorite porn star today. Ed Hanson, PeakIgnorance, and Republicans in the House and Senate wouldn’t have it any other way.

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