By  on December 20, 1994

NEW YORK -- Don't pop those champagne corks just yet.

That's the word from textile executives who warned that despite the increase in employment throughout their industry in November, it's premature to get euphoric.

As reported, the textile industry in November gained a seasonally adjusted 3,000 jobs compared with October, according to government figures. Textile industry employment was 674,000 in November, compared with 671,000 a year ago.

A major reason for the jump in employment, executives said, was that in October, new orders for textiles surpassed textile shipments for the first time this year. Shipments in October were $6.27 billion, while new orders hit $6.54 billion.

In addition, many firms are beefing up their export efforts, as the North American Free Trade Agreement and GATT increase their presence on the international textile scene.

"I don't know if we should get too excited about the numbers, but I do know that we are looking at a reasonable year ahead," said William Armfield 4th, vice chairman of Unifi and president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute. "As we go forward," he added, "we are going to have to be more competitive on a global basis -- and that means greater exporting. And, for that, we need good people."

Alfred Greenblatt, president of the apparel, home fashions and industrial business unit of Guilford Mills, said the employment figures do signal a strengthening of the domestic industry.

"We're seeing more business coming back on shore, there's NAFTA, there are cotton shortages throughout Asia and there are more 807 programs, all of which will benefit our industry," Greenblatt said.

Greenblatt noted that Guilford employs about 5,000 worldwide, and between 4,000 and 4,500 throughout the U.S.

"We're holding to that number right now, but we'd like to start getting more as the business improves," Greenblatt said. "The long-range outlook looks good, but there will be short-range fluctuations."

Still, the increasing number of imported textile and apparel products, the rising cost of raw materials, which many mills thus far have not been able to pass onto their customers, and even GATT and NAFTA, which have mills looking to establish operations outside U.S. boundaries, could stifle growth in U.S. employment in the textile industry.

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