By  on February 7, 1994

WASHINGTON -- Employment in the domestic textile and apparel industries in January remained relatively stable against December with apparel losing a seasonally adjusted 1,000 jobs and textiles gaining 1,000, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Meanwhile, employment in general merchandise stores lost 15,000 workers over the month, ending January with 2,328,000 employees, as apparel and accessories store employment declined by 9,000 workers to 1,135,000. Compared to January 1993, employment in general merchandise stores was down 54,000 last month, while the payroll for apparel and accessories stores dropped 8,000 jobs from year-ago levels.

In testimony before the congressional Joint Economic Committee, general merchandise and apparel stores were singled out by Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner Katharine G. Abraham as being among the "weather-sensitive industries" hard hit by job losses in January following the California earthquake and East Coast snowstorm.

Retail analyst Rosalind Wells, of NPD Group, Inc., Port Washington, N.Y., concurred: "If business is slow because of the weather, they would cut back."

Although employment in the textile and apparel industry didn't appear to be affected by the weather, output in the sectors measured by the average work week appeared to be affected by the quake and storms, said Dave Link, economist with the American Textile Manufacturers Institute.

The average hourly work week for textile mills declined in January to 41.4 hours from December's 41.9 hours, as the apparel week dropped to 36.8 hours from 37.2 hours. In January 1993, the textile work week stood at 41.3 hours and the apparel week was 37.3 hours.

In the economy as a whole, the unemployment rate in January stood at 6.7 percent, up from December's 6.4 percent. Labor economists, who have revised the manner in which the overall unemployment rate is calculated beginning with the January figures, cautioned against analyzing last month's figures against December's. The new method for calculating employment is considered more accurate than the old.

Meanwhile, the average hourly wage for textile workers in January increased in January 3 cents to $9.04 against December and was up 24 cents from January 1993's level of $8.80. The average hourly wage for apparel workers in January declined 3 cents to $7.22 against December and was up 17 cents from January 1993's wage of $7.05.

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