Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON--The U.S. textile industry gained 3,000 jobs in 1994, while the apparel industry posted a loss of 13,000 workers, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The textile industry ended 1994 employing 674,000 workers compared to December 1993's payroll of 671,000, while the apparel industry ended the year with 946,000 workers, down from 959,000 a year earlier.
Against November, the textile industry added 1,000 jobs in December, as the apparel industry dropped 2,000 workers.
For apparel and accessories stores, the number of workers in 1994 declined 3,000 to 1,151,000, while employment at general merchandise stores increased by 72,000 jobs to 2,521,000. In December, apparel and accessories stores lost 2,000 jobs against November, and employment in general merchandise stores declined by 16,000 jobs.
In the overall economy, the job picture showed continued improvement with the unemployment rate declining to 5.4 percent. The year started with an unemployment rate of 6.7 percent.
The textile industry ended the year on a strong note, said Dave Link, economist with the American Textile Manufacturers Institute. In addition to adding jobs, the industry continues to set records for new orders. In November, the latest figure, orders rose 0.7 percent to $6.623 billion against October, for the fourth consecutive monthly increase.
Link also noted backlogs of shipments in November were up 4.5 percent against October and 18 percent from year-ago levels. "This backlog will also keep the industry humming for awhile."
The apparel industry, which has been steadily losing jobs since 1972 when there were 1,438,000 workers, continues to be affected by a host of factors, said Carl Priestland, economist, the American Apparel Manufacturers Association. He cited continued growth in imported apparel and consumer spending focus on hard goods as leading causes.
The average hourly textile industry wage in December rose to $9.28 against November's $9.26 and December 1993's wage of $9.01. The average hourly wage for apparel workers in December was $7.47 against November's $7.45 and December 1993's $7.24.
-- WASHINGTON--Clinton administration talk about hiking the $4.25 federal minimum wage has received a cool reception from the business community, which at the same time is convinced a proposal won't go far in the Republican-controlled Congress.
"It would be very hard at this juncture to get an increase through Congress," said Steve Pfister, National Retail Federation political director.
Labor Secretary Robert Reich told reporters Friday the administration is seriously weighing a plan to increase the wage, but declined to say when an announcement might be made. White House officials have indicated any raise would be less than $1.
If a hike is proposed, a broad-based joint business effort would likely be formed to fight it, much like the coalition that unsuccessfully fought the last increase signed by Republican President George Bush and passed by the Democrat-held Congress in 1991, a spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Businesses said. That increased the wage to $4.25 from $3.80.
The administration is likely viewing a minimum wage hike, like its middle-class tax cut, as part of its strategy to appeal to working America, Pfister said. "The administration continues to play to its core constituencies," he said, calling the minimum wage "an antiquated concept. The market dictates the rate, and when the minimum wage is increased, it only has a ripple effect in forcing all wages up," he said.
"When you raise the minimum wage, it bumps all wages up," said Larry K. Martin, president, American Apparel Manufacturer Association. "We already have trouble competing with the Far East's 50-cent wages."
Evy Dubrow, Washington lobbyist with the ILGWU, labeled as "sheer and utter nonsense" arguments that minimum wage increases hike all wages.
"I think the administration really believes that something needs to be done for the lowest-paid workers," she added.--Fairchild News Service

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