Guest blog post by the Department of Commerce's Chief Economist Mark Doms. 
Today the Commerce Department and ESA released a brief report  on “U.S. Trade in Private Services.”  The report  (PDF) shows that the United States has consistently run a record services trade surplus that is driving overall exports growth and topped half a trillion dollars in 2010.
Most of the time when you hear about trade, it is about trade in goods, in part because it is easier to wrap our minds around the idea of goods (pictures of large container ships help, and we often notice the markings on products that note where they were made). However, the United States exports a sizable amount of services (non-tangible items of value, such as school tuition or an airplane ticket), and they are leading the way toward doubling U.S. exports in support of several million new jobs under President Obama’s National Export Initiative.
A few reasons why greater emphasis should be placed on our trade in services:
- Services make up a big part of the economy: 80 percent or so depending on how you define it.
- In 2010, we exported over a half trillion dollars (wow) of services, an all-time high.
- The trade surplus in services in 2010 topped $526.6 billion.
- Services jobs represent high-skill, high-wage jobs.
- From 2002-2008, our private services exports grew at an annual average rate of 11.1 percent.
- Many services are “tradable”, especially in today’s increasingly globalized world: legal services can be traded, computer services can be traded, engineering services, medical services, etc.
- Exports of services are likely to show continued growth, taking advantage of the skill of the U.S. workforce and supporting living-wage U.S. jobs.