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The Slippery Slope: Textile, Apparel Jobs Lose Another 18,200

Apparel and textile manufacturing lost 18,200 seasonally adjusted jobs in July, one of the largest single-month drops in employment on record.

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WASHINGTON — A perfect storm could be gathering over U.S. apparel and textile manufacturing.

Economists who have watched job losses mount over the past two years claim the horizon is ominously darkening for the twin industries, which lost 18,200 seasonally adjusted jobs in July alone, according to the Labor Department’s employment report released Friday.

It is one of the largest one-month drops in employment on record and does not even take into account the bankruptcy filing and liquidation of Pillowtex, the Kannapolis, N.C.-based home furnishings manufacturer that said last week it would close all of its U.S. plants and lay off 6,450 workers.

The Labor Department recently revised the index and divided up some of the textile and apparel job categories. On top of the staggering one-month loss in July, Labor’s revised June employment numbers showed an additional net combined loss of 9,100 jobs, bringing the total losses in the month 14,500. Factoring in the losses in July, the total apparel and textile employment stood at 745, 900.

Industry experts have long theorized that a critical mass of jobs would be reached and the job-loss rate would be halted. But economic conditions and trade policy are threatening to wipe out domestic employment in the sector altogether.

Apparel employment plunged by 9,300 seasonally adjusted jobs to 297,500 workers in July. Compared with July 2002, apparel employers slashed 60,400 workers from payrolls on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The textile mill category lost 6,900 jobs in July against June to employ 262,800 people, while textile mill products lost 2,000 jobs to employ 185,600 workers. The two combined now employ 448,400. Compared with July 2002, textile mills lost 31,400 jobs and textile mill products lost 10,500 jobs.

Such dramatic losses over time have mobilized domestic textile groups, which blame the losses primarily on imports from China. A group of 14 textile and fiber associations filed four petitions last month seeking to stem apparel and textile imports from China by instituting quotas under a special contingency deal allowing the world’s most-populated nation to join the World Trade Organization.

The U.S. government has 15 business days to make sure the petitions are valid and has not yet ruled. That will be followed by 30 days for public comment and another 60 days for a final determination.
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