WASHINGTON — Gains in apparel factory employment were offset by declines in textile mill employment in June, a Labor Department report revealed Friday.
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On a seasonally adjusted basis, textile mills lost another 2,000 workers in June against May to employ 432,000, which is 46,000 fewer than June 2001. Apparel factories, on the other hand, added 3,000 jobs to their payrolls during the month to employ 523,000, but that still represents 43,000 fewer employees than a year ago.
“Compared to what textiles was doing last year, losing 2,000 jobs in June shows some semblance of stabilization in the industry,” said Charles McMillion, chief economist at MBG Information Services. “This is an indication that the severe production and employment cutbacks of last year have eased and it is a welcome respite for the industry.”
But he warned that this is just a “pause” before the next round of “severe” cutbacks.
“Companies in the textile and apparel industries were quick to control inventory and cut back employment [in the fourth quarter last year] and now they are digesting the previous cutbacks,” McMillion said. “Going forward, import pressure, increasingly from China, and sluggish domestic and global demand means domestic producers will have to further cut back seasonal production and employment later in the year.”
Meanwhile, employment at general merchandise stores in June dropped by 12,000 workers to 2.884 million, which is also 33,000 below year-ago levels. Department stores last month employed 2.543 million workers, down 17,000 from May and down 36,000 from June 2001.
In the overall economy, the unemployment rate rose to 5.9 percent from 5.8 percent in May, despite an increase of 36,000 jobs in June.
Typically, when demand picks up, manufacturers increase their work weeks before adding new employees. The average textile mill work week in June remained unchanged at 41.1 hours, as did the average apparel factory work week, which stayed at 37 hours.””