By  on May 9, 1994

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. textile industry in April lost a seasonally adjusted 1,000 jobs against March, as the apparel industry lost 2,000 workers, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Compared with a year ago, the apparel industry employed 43,000 fewer workers in April, while the textile industry had 6,000 fewer workers.

At retail, general merchandise stores increased their payroll substantially for the third month in a row, adding 10,000 positions for a total of 2.37 million, which is 13,000 fewer workers than April 1993. In March, the industry added 13,000 workers over the month, while in February it gained 10,000 workers.

Taken as a whole, the nation's employment situation had a strong showing in April, with the rate dropping to 6.4 percent from March's 6.5 percent. During the month, 267,000 jobs were added to nonfarm employment for a total of 112.09 million, with notable gains in services and construction as well as in retail trade.

Although the entire manufacturing sector over the last seven months has seen employment stability, the apparel industry isn't following suit. The continuous decline in apparel employment is puzzling, said Carl Priestland, economist with the American Apparel Manufacturers Association, who had anticipated the situation would begin improving. He noted the domestic industry collectively is doing well, with last year's production of $41.1 billion only $100 million below 1992.

"There may be some structural changes going on in the industry that we won't be aware of for a while," Priestland said, while still forecasting domestic apparel sales as being strong in 1994.

One positive sign in the apparel employment report is the continued strong work week, Priestland said. For the second consecutive month, the average work week for non-supervisory apparel workers was 37.8 hours, compared to 37.1 hours in April 1993.

"The people who are left are being used more intensively," Priestland said.

The textile work week last month declined to 42 hours from March's 42.3 hours, but was still ahead of the 41.9 hours during April 1993.

Meanwhile, the average hourly wage for apparel workers in April was $7.27, up from $7.24 in March and $7.07 from year-ago levels. The wage for textile workers in April was $9.11, up from $9.03 in March and $8.88 from April 1993.

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