WASHINGTON — Employment in the domestic textile industry during 1993 dropped a seasonally adjusted 6,000 jobs, while the apparel industry lost 38,000 workers, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Meanwhile, employment in general merchandise stores declined 61,000 jobs in 1993, ending the year with 2.3 million workers, compared with 2.4 million in December 1992.
At year’s end, the apparel industry employed 954,000 workers, down from 992,000 in December 1992. Textile industry employment ended last year with 661,000 workers, down from year-ago levels of 670,000.
Carl Priestland, economist with the American Apparel Manufacturers Association, said more than half of last year’s job loss in the industry occurred during the last quarter. Priestland also noted that last year’s job loss far surpassed 1992, which saw a drop of 24,000 workers against 1991, when the economy was still digging itself out of the recession.
“We didn’t take a significant dip in 1992. Now we’re losing nearly 4 percent of our labor force, which is of concern,” he said.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the precise cause for the bigger-than-expected decline in apparel employment, Priestland said. Emphasis in the industry on modernizing and Quick Response probably played a part, and while apparel imports have been increasing at just 6 percent, their impact on the domestic industry is still being felt, he said.
The highly mechanized textile industry has seen relative stability in employment, with the market showing little fluctuation in demand, according to Dave Link, economist with the American Textile Manufacturers Institute. The last available statistics show that new orders in November were up 4 percent against October, while shipments for the same period were unchanged. November’s new orders, which are reflected in the stable employment figures, were at their highest level since January.
Link said another encouraging sign is the increase in the textile work week against 1992. In December, the average work week was 41.9 hours, compared with year-ago levels of 41.4 hours. The work week for apparel workers was down slightly over the year. In January it stood at 37.3 hours, down from December 1992 levels of 37.4 hours.
The overall national employment picture ended 1993 on an upbeat note, with the unemployment rate in December declining to 6.4 percent, the lowest rate in three years. November’s unemployment rate was 6.5 percent.