SAN FRANCISCO — The apparel manufacturing industry in this town was nearly extinct just a few years ago, but today there are not enough workers to supply a surging demand.
During the industry’s peak in the Seventies, the city was home to more than 1,000 sewing factories that contracted with the likes of Esprit, Bebe, Byer California, Eber and Gap. At the time, the U.S. manufactured 75 percent of its own clothing. By 1994, cheaper labor costs abroad and the passing of NAFTA made outsourcing a more efficient option for large West Coast-based clothing brands. Then, in 2004, the Central America Free Trade Act helped push domestic clothing manufacturing closer to today’s figure, only roughly 5 percent.
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