WASHINGTON — Apparel manufacturing expanded in May but at a slower pace than April, as overall U.S. manufacturing activity produced the lowest index reading for the past 12 months, according to an Institute for Supply Management survey released Wednesday.

This story first appeared in the June 2, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Institute’s monthly survey of 350 executives across a broad spectrum of manufacturing industries, including apparel and textiles, showed that while the composite index grew for the 22nd straight month, the 6.9 percent month-to-month decline was the largest since 1984. The overall manufacturing index fell to 53.5 percent in May from 60.4 percent in April.

Bradley J. Holcomb, chairman of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said slower growth in new orders and production due to “significant cost pressures from commodities and other inputs” were the primary contributors to the lower index reading in May. Apparel, leather and applied products manufacturing ranked 12th on the list of 14 out of 18 industries reporting growth in May. The industry was ranked seventh in the April report. Textile mills fared better in May, moving up in the ranking from ninth to sixth.

“A general comment [from an apparel executive] was they were seeing some increase in business, but a lot of it was last-minute orders,” Holcomb said. “The other comment was around tightness of trucking and transportation due to increases in fuel costs. We’ve had four very strong months in the manufacturing sector overall, so we are coming off of incredible highs January through April. Companies are taking their foot off the accelerator, but there are some bright spots such as a slowdown in price increases.”

The ISM price index fell 9 percent in May to 76.5.

Meanwhile, a report from the Vienna-based United Nations Industrial Development Organization showed apparel output in the first quarter expanded 12.8 percent in developing countries, but declined 4.6 percent in rich industrialized nations. In the same period, the report said, textile output grew 7.5 percent in developing countries and rose 3.4 percent in industrialized nations.

The study said overall global output for apparel in the three months averaged a 5.9 percent increase and textiles averaged a 6.1 percent gain.

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