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Census Bureau says state's exports dropped 21.5 percent in the first six months

The U.S. Census Bureau said Wisconsin's exports dropped 21.5 percent in the first six months of the year, compared to the same time a year ago.

It's the first decline since 2001, when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks slowed the economy.

And it's one of only a few drops in Wisconsin exporting since 1987.

Nationally, exports are down almost 24 percent.

Bernard Hoekman of the World Bank calls it the deepest drop in world trade since the Depression era of the 1930s.

Wisconsin sent $1.4 billion in industrial machinery abroad in the first half of the year.

It's the state's largest export and it's down 24 percent from a year ago.

That's hitting companies like Bucyrus of Milwaukee especially hard.

Three-fourths of the industrial equipment and parts it makes in Milwaukee goes overseas, and CEO Tim Sullivan says the 1,300 Bucyrus workers in the region are very dependent on foreign business.

He says the emerging markets in India, China and eastern Europe are carrying Bucyrus right now.

Business is down by double-digits in its traditional export markets of Australia, Africa and South America.

Also, exports of Wisconsin's medical instruments are down 27 percent this year. Paper exports are down 26 percent. And plastics are down 15 percent.