By  on June 10, 2008

GENEVA — The European Union's textile and apparel sector lost 165,000 jobs in 2007, or 6.4 percent of the workforce, compared with the prior year, according to a report from the European Apparel & Textile Organization.

"The sector lost more than 10,000 companies, or more than 29 companies per day, in great majority of very small size," the Euratex report said.

Despite witnessing one of the biggest shedding of jobs in a decade, the industry managed to post an 8 percent increase in apparel exports but flat textile exports.

The U.S. remained the top destination for the second straight year, although exports declined in value and volume, while solid increases were notched in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, China, Brazil, Vietnam, Serbia, Albania and Kuwait.

As for exports to China, the report notes they are "only a fraction of what it's sending to the EU."

The study surmises the high value of the euro against the dollar has not allowed EU exporters in the last few years to fully benefit from the positive developments in world demand. The study noted that in the first quarter of 2008, new orders for man-made fibers and textiles declined compared with the same quarter a year ago.

However, Francesco Marchi, Euratex director of economic affairs and author of the study compiled for the group's 150,000 member companies, noted that incoming orders for apparel posted nearly a 7 percent increase from the year-ago period.

Industry volume reached 211.3 billion euros, or about $331.9 billion at current exchange, and investments rose by 5.9 billion euros, or $9.3 billion, in 2007, with exports outside the EU increasing and accounting for nearly 20 percent of volume.

On the import front, the report noted that four suppliers of textiles and apparel — China, Turkey, India and Bangladesh — accounted for 64 percent of imports in value terms and 59 percent of the volume.

China posted the biggest growth rates, accounting for a 34 percent share of value of textile and apparel imports, and 31 percent of the volume. This was followed by Turkey, with 16 percent value share and 13 percent of volume; India, with 8 percent of value and 9 percent of volume, and Bangladesh with 6 percent of each category.By the end of April, the report indicated that China's exports of textiles and apparel to the EU grew 24 percent in value terms. But in eight categories that were under quota between mid-2005 and the end of 2007 — T-shirts, sweatshirts, trousers, bras, dresses, shirts, home textiles and flax yarns — the increase was 54 percent.

Euratex estimated retail sales of textiles and apparel in the EU last year edged up 5.1 percent in value and 4.7 percent in volume, but sales growth in 2008 so far has "turned negative."

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