By  on July 11, 2005

WASHINGTON — Continuing to feel the strain of an increasingly global marketplace, U.S. apparel and textile producers cut their payrolls by 4,800 in June.

Facing different pressures, such as consolidation, department stores also shrank their employment rosters. Apparel and accessories stores, however, continued to bulk up payrolls.

The economy at large added 146,000 jobs last month, according to seasonally adjusted figures released by the Labor Department Friday. That was less than economists anticipated, but unemployment fell to 5 percent from 5.1 percent in May, marking its lowest level since September 2001.

"We were a little bit upset that the numbers were a little bit weak," said Standard & Poor's chief economist David Wyss, who was looking for 200,000 new jobs overall, but added, "We'll see continued strong job growth."

On the other hand, Charles McMillion, president and chief economist at MBG Information Services, said the report "was weak for the textile and apparel industry and really weak for the country as a whole, not so much in the number of jobs, but in the hours worked and pay per job."

Hours worked in the private sector were unchanged from April to June. McMillion predicted that low consumer savings and high debt levels will cause the economy to slow in the second half.

"This is going to be a difficult holiday buying season," he forecast.

In June, apparel and accessories stores added 5,200 jobs for a total of 1.4 million. Employment at general merchandise stores fell by 1,600 to 2.9 million. Within this group, department stores trimmed payrolls by 4,100 to 1.6 million.

Employment at textile mills slid by 700 last month to 224,700, while textile product mills took their head counts down by 1,600 to 176,700. Apparel producers cut 2,500 jobs to employ 256,000.

Manufacturing job losses have been a key point in the debate over the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which was approved by the Senate but faces tough opposition in the House.

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