WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices on domestically produced women’s and girls’ apparel fell 0.4 percent in April compared with a year earlier, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

Within the category, prices on sweaters slid 3.8 percent, while nightwear was down 5.1 percent and skirts declined 2 percent, according to the Producer Price Index. Prices on all apparel and textiles made in the U.S. rose 1.1 percent.

Steep increases in the energy area propelled wholesale prices across the economy to a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent rise in April. The higher energy costs, however, have not had major impacts on other sectors, and producer prices outside of food and energy were up a modest 0.1 percent, indicating that inflation is under control.

“The bottom line is that wholesale price inflation, outside the energy sector, remains in check, and the outlook for core consumer prices remains favorable,” Peter Morici, professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, said in a report.

Morici said rising productivity has helped producers absorb higher fuel prices and wage increases.

The Consumer Price Index will offer another, more widely watched reading of inflation when it is released today. That’s of particular interest in apparel, since only about 10 percent of goods sold at retail are made in the U.S. and measured by the PPI, while the CPI includes imports as well.

The Federal Reserve Board and economists watch for signs of inflation. Concerned about swift economic growth, the Fed has raised interest rates to 5 percent.

Among the textile goods registering price increases last month were synthetic fibers, which were up 1.5 percent; processed yarns and threads, with a 2.2 percent gain; greige fabrics, up 3.9 percent, and finished fabrics, with a 2.7 percent increase.

This story first appeared in the May 17, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.