WASHINGTON — The apparel and textile industries, stuck in a pattern of constant employment erosion, lost a combined 5,400 jobs in June, bringing the total employment to 773,200.
Apparel jobs, on the decline for three decades, fell a seasonally adjusted 2,000 in June against May to 314,500 workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s employment report released Thursday. Compared with June 2002, apparel employers slashed 47,000 jobs from payrolls on a seasonally adjusted basis.
The textile mill category lost 2,400 seasonally adjusted jobs in June against May to employ 270,800 workers, while textile mill products lost 1,000 jobs to employ 187,900 workers. The two combined now employ 458,700 workers.
Compared with June 2002, textile mills lost 22,200 jobs, while textile mill products lost 8,400 jobs. Such dramatic losses over time have mobilized domestic textile groups, which blame the losses primarily on imports from China.
The American Textile Manufacturers Institute last week released an in-house report — disputed by importers — claiming the twin industries stand to lose 630,000 jobs by 2006 if imports from China are not restrained. Six textile trade and lobby groups are pressuring the Bush administration to invoke a special textile and apparel safeguard against China. The groups are working on a petition seeking to reimpose several quotas that were lifted on imports from China as part of a 10-year phaseout of global quotas set to expire on Dec. 31, 2004.
“China is the major cause [for domestic job losses], but demand growth is slowing and we do have imports from other countries,” said Charles McMillion, chief economist at MBG Information Services. “However, China is clearly undercutting U.S. suppliers, leading the import surge and driving down prices to levels where U.S. producers can’t compete.”
McMillion said U.S. apparel and textile makers have so much unused capacity they are increasingly forced to shut down plants and lay off workers.
“The outlook is desperate,” McMillion said. “The textile and apparel industries are major suppliers to many other key industries, including automobiles and electronics, and when they weaken, there are ripple effects throughout the economy.”
Meanwhile, apparel and accessories stores cut 4,100 seasonally adjusted jobs from payrolls in June to employ 1.3 million. Compared with June 2002, apparel and accessories store employment fell by 30,400.Department stores shed 4,800 jobs in June to employ 1.7 million workers. Compared with June 2002, department stores cut 21,100 from payrolls.
General merchandise stores slashed 7,100 jobs in June to employ 2.8 million and shed another 3,400 against a year ago.
In the overall economy, 30,000 jobs were lost last month as the unemployment rate jumped from 6.1 percent in May to 6.4 percent in June, marking a nine-year high.
“We felt the unemployment rate would peak at 6.4 or 6.5 percent but not for another couple of months, late in the third quarter when the employment picture would start to show measurable improvement,” said John Mothersole, an economist with Global Insight.
“The U.S. recovery is not gaining momentum and it appears to be a truly jobless recovery. With a downward revision in the Gross Domestic Product in the first quarter, there is no forward momentum and the economy is showing this aimless direction.”
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