By  on November 17, 2004

WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices for U.S.-produced women’s and girls’ apparel rose 0.1 percent in October, which economists attributed to higher energy costs.

In the overall economy, producer prices went up 1.7 percent for all finished goods last month, the largest increase in the Producer Price Index since 1990, according to the Labor Department. The boost was primarily driven by a surge in oil prices and economists said they anticipate some inflation ahead.

Prices for all U.S.-made apparel increased 0.3 percent in October, but were down 0.2 percent compared with October 2003. Men’s and boys’ prices increased 0.6 percent last month.

U.S.-made textile and apparel prices have been in a long-term decline because of cheaper imports. The Labor Department’s recent overhaul of the PPI does not provide year-over-year comparisons because many of the textile and apparel categories were reclassified.

“It doesn’t show any additional strength,” said Charles McMillion, president of MBG Information Services. “The industry has continued to tread water the last few months. The strength the industry showed early in the year in prices seems to have vanished through the summer.”

McMillion said the textile and apparel industries continue to “weaken” because of foreign competition.

“Now this is just one more problem — their costs are rising because of energy costs and other component parts, so the prices they have to charge have to go up, which is really difficult because they are facing cutthroat price competition,” McMillion said.

Among the categories of women’s and girls’ apparel cut and sewn in the U.S. and showing any price changes were swimwear, which jumped 2.8 percent; underwear, up 0.1 percent, and bras, which fell 0.4 percent. Wholesale prices for knit shirts and blouses, woven shirts and blouses, dresses, coats and capes, jeans and slacks and sweaters were unchanged.

In another category based on apparel made in knitting mills, prices gained 0.4 percent. Prices for knit shirts, underwear and nightwear remained flat, while prices for finished pantyhose and tights rose 0.3 percent.

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