WASHINGTON — The deepening global recession drove down textile and apparel imports to the U.S. in January to the lowest level for that month in five years.

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The Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel said Friday that textile and apparel shipments to the U.S. fell 8.9 percent to 3.7 billion square meters equivalent in January compared with the same month a year ago. Textile imports dropped 10.3 percent to 2.1 billion SME, and apparel imports fell 7 percent to 1.65 billion SME.

It was the ninth consecutive month in which industry imports declined on a year-over-year basis. The overall trade deficit narrowed 9.7 percent to $36 billion in January from $39.9 billion in December.

“What’s happening is clearly companies are making adjustments or lowering expectations for demand in the summer,” said Richard Yamarone, director of economic research at Argus Research Corp. “There probably aren’t a lot of bathing suits on those barges, simply because they don’t anticipate a great summer sale season. I think you will see pretty lean shelf space over the coming months.”

The top five apparel importers in January were China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Honduras and Indonesia. China topped the list of textile supplies, followed by Pakistan, India, Mexico and South Korea.

But many of the top suppliers posted import declines in the face of sagging global demand for apparel and home furnishings. Imports of apparel and textiles from China fell 3.99 percent to 1.6 billion SME compared with January 2008. Apparel imports from China were down 2.8 percent to 592 million SME, and textile imports fell 4.7 percent to 1 billion SME against a year earlier.

Shipments of textiles and apparel from Canada posted the largest drop — a 28.9 percent decline compared with the same month a year ago to 93 million SME. Imports from Mexico fell 21 percent to 163 million SME and shipments from Honduras dropped 16.2 percent to 63 million SME.

Vietnam continued to attract more production from other Asian countries, increasing apparel and textile shipments to the U.S. by 29 percent to 183 million SME. India raised shipments by 5.2 percent to 249 million SME and Bangladesh boosted its imports 3.1 percent to 149 million SME.