Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — Employment in the U.S. apparel and textile manufacturing industries in November hit another record low, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The apparel industry has lost 86,000 jobs this year, bringing to 877,000 the number of workers employed in the industry. In November alone, the sector dropped 7,000 workers, the second largest amount for a manufacturer segment, next to autos, which lost 14,000 employees.
“The apparel industry continued its long-term pattern of job loss,” noted Katharine G. Abraham, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in her report on employment before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. In total, the manufacturing sector lost 32,000 jobs last month.
The textile industry over the year has lost 32,000 jobs. In September, textile mills employed 642,000 workers, 1,000 fewer than in October.
While textiles is feeling the pinch from the ongoing shakeout in the retail sector, the apparel sector remains the most profoundly affected, according to David Weil, assistant professor of economics at Boston University, who is part of a four-person team studying the industries at the Harvard Center for Textile and Apparel Research.
“The short-term response of a lot of apparel manufacturers is to attack more intensive price competition by going offshore and lowering labor costs,” Weil said. He doesn’t see this pattern ebbing for awhile. However, he added, the number of apparel jobs will eventually hit a plateau as the remaining companies fill a Quick-Response niche dictated by retailers who are larger, fewer in number and running lean operations.
The cutbacks at retail were reflected in November’s retail employment figures as well. Compared to year-ago payrolls, apparel and accessory store employment last month was off 97,900 jobs, as employment in department stores shed 187,200 jobs. For the month, employment among apparel and accessory stores edged up 1,000 jobs against October to 1,076,00, as department store employment also increased 1,000 jobs to 2,248,000.
Meanwhile, the average hourly work week in the apparel industry increased slightly to 36.8 hours in November from 36.6 hours in October but fell from November 1994’s week of 38 hours.
The average hourly work week in the textile industry also increased for the month to 40.6 hours from October’s 40.4 hours but was down from the year-ago week of 41.8 hours.
The average hourly wage for apparel workers in November increased to $7.76 an hour from October’s $7.72 and November 1994’s wage of $7.45. The hourly wage for textile workers was $9.55 last month, up from October’s $9.50 and November 1994’s wage of $9.26.
In the overall economic picture, November’s unemployment rate increased a bit to 5.6 percent from October’s 5.5 percent, keeping to a level that has remained consistent for most of the year. — Fairchild News Service

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