NEW YORK — "Manufacturing jobs have done a lot to help New York’s immigrants for the last three centuries."

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer offered his take on the role of the apparel-manufacturing industry in this state’s economy at an event Friday to unveil the second edition of UNITE’s "Proudly Made in New York" shopping guide, intended to help consumers find goods made within the state.

"Those jobs are the ladder up for generation after generation after generation when they come here from all around the globe," Schumer continued. "All they want is to live a life of dignity…and the fashion industry has provided that."

Schumer was joined by his fellow Senate Democrat Hillary Clinton, also of New York, along with a field of politicians including Rep. Charles. Rangel (D., N.Y.), New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D.), City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D.), and a field of industry luminaries including designer Nicole Miller and her chief executive officer, Bud Konheim; Calvin Klein president and chief operating officer Tom Murry; Bill Blass ceo Michael Groveman, Elie Tahari; Mark Shulman, chief operating officer of Retail Brand Alliance, which owns Brooks Bros., and Joy Behar, co-host of the ABC-TV program "The View."

UNITE president Bruce Raynor took to the podium to report the first good news in more than a year for local manufacturers, who have been hard hit by the weak economy.

"For the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks, employment in the New York garment industry is actually rising," he said.

He did not provide specific numbers, but said the reason for this increase is that "New York production has a place in the economy of this city. More importantly, it has a place in the economics of the apparel industry."

Final stats on the employment situation are expected to be released shortly.

Groveman, for one, agreed with the UNITE executive, noting that Bill Blass produces all its clothing at contractors within a three-block radius of its Seventh Avenue headquarters.

"We do a lot of trunk shows, our production is very customized," he said. We have a lot of one-cutting. To be able to control and monitor the production is key."Clinton, who noted that the navy Dana Buchman suit she was wearing had been made in New York, took heart at the news of rising employment.

"It’s been a rough year," she said, "but we are still here and I was delighted to hear Bruce say that the numbers are on their way back up."

Turning to the business of the day, UNITE distributed the second edition of its shopping guide, listing 23 Manhattan retailers that sold locally made clothing.

Raynor then invited Rangel himself — the man who in 1998 infamously declared the domestic manufacturing industry dead, and the next day, publicly changed his mind — to begin the narration of the fashion show.

Rangel described women’s looks from Bill Blass and Nicole Miller. Some of his colleagues from Washington, Albany and City Hall joined him to narrate the show, which also included looks from Brooks Bros., Noviello Bloom, Kenneth Cole, Hickey Freeman and Calvin Klein.

Calvin Klein’s Murry seemed taken with Rangel’s gravelly narration — and his facetious attempt to strut out onto the runway himself.

"You’ve got a second career working there," he said, joking that he’d want the congressman to narrate Klein’s next Bryant Park presentation.

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