WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices for U.S.-made apparel fell 0.3 percent in April compared with March, but increased 1.3 percent from a year earlier, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Women’s and girls’ apparel prices declined 0.5 percent in April, but increased 1.3 percent in year-to-year comparisons, according to the Producer Price Index. Men’s and boys’ apparel prices were up 0.1 percent month-to-month and 2 percent from the prior year.

Prices for all U.S.-made goods increased a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in April, driven primarily by rising food prices. The increase followed a drop of 1.2 percent in March and a rise of 0.1 percent in February.
Wholesale prices were in “slumber mode” in April, said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at IHS Global Insight.

“Downward pressure on prices continues to play out across a number of major industries, and core intermediate and crude goods prices continued to decline, suggesting further diminishment of pipeline inflationary pressures,” Bethune said.

The PPI for apparel is not a true indicator of price fluctuations because only a small percentage of those goods are manufactured in the U.S. The Consumer Price Index, to be released today, is a stronger measure because it includes all goods sold at retail, including imports.

Among the women’s and girls’ categories showing the most price fluctuations, woven shirts increased 2.8 percent from April 2008, while knit shirts and blouses, and dresses both declined 0.2 percent month-to-month, but increased 1 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, in 12-month comparisons. Prices for jeans and slacks declined 0.5 percent in April compared with March, and dropped 0.3 percent from a year earlier.
In men’s and boys’, wholesale prices for work clothing prices increased 0.1 percent in April and advanced 3.1 percent year-to-year. Suits, including uniforms, increased 0.4 percent month-to-month and 4 percent compared with April 2008. Woven shirt prices declined 2 percent in April compared with March, but rose 2.2 percent in 12-month comparisons.

Prices for apparel fabric, also known as textile mill goods, increased 3.4 percent in April from the prior month and 8 percent year-over-year. Textile product mills, primarily home furnishing and industrial fabric, saw prices decline 0.6 percent month-to-month and increase 2.2 percent in 12-month comparisons.

Deeper in the pipeline, synthetic fiber prices increased 6.6 percent in April and rose 1.6 percent year-to-year. Yarns rose 0.4 percent month-to-month, but declined 3.8 percent for the 12 months. Greige fabric prices increased 0.2 percent in monthly comparisons and 4.7 percent from April 2008. Finished fabrics rose 0.4 percent in April compared with March, and 3.4 percent from a year earlier.