LABOR DEPT: APPAREL, TEXTILES EMPLOYMENT DROPS IN FEBRUARY

Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — The domestic apparel industry in February lost a seasonally adjusted 11,000 jobs against January, while textile industry employment dipped 1,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Since February 1994, the apparel industry payroll has shed 21,000 workers to 933,000 last month, while over the year textile employment declined 4,000 jobs to 669,000.
Within the retail sector, employment in apparel and accessory stores dipped 2,000 workers in February to 1,147,000 against January and was down 1,000 from year-ago levels. Employment within general merchandise stores also fell 2,000 workers for the month, registering 2,542,000 workers, an increase of 109,000 from February 1994.
The sharp slide in apparel jobs stands in contrast to the large uptick in employment in the overall economy, including the addition of 27,000 manufacturing jobs, most of which occurred in the durable goods sector, the Labor Department noted.
“Employment in apparel fell substantially over the month, continuing its long-term decline,” said the agency’s report. As a whole, the nation’s employers added 318,000 jobs in February, decreasing the unemployment rate to 5.4 percent after January’s 5.7 percent rate.
“Apparel jobs are being lost overseas, while jobs otherwise are picking up,” said Bob Barr, assistant chief economist, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
One positive measure of the apparel industry, however, is the size of the sector’s work week, which increased in February to 37.8 hours against January’s 37.4 hours and the 35.8-hour work week of February 1994. Economists view an increase in a work week as reflecting the maintenance or strengthening of production in the face of employment declines.
The textile industry work week also posted an increase in February, rising to 42 hours against January’s 41.8 hours and February 1994’s 40.4-hour week.
The increased work week should mean continued strength in textile orders and shipments, said David Link, chief economist, American Textile Manufacturers Institute. He described the monthly decline in industry employment as statistically flat and the year-over-year drop as the “continuation of a slight, long term trend downward.”
Shipments and orders in January, the latest month for which such data is available, remain well above their year-ago levels, despite declines against December, which Link said were likely “one-month events.”
Textile orders in January were off 6.8 percent against December, declining to $6.4 billion, while they were up 4.6 percent against January 1994. Shipments in dipJanuary ped 1.2 percent to $6.38 billion against December, while over the year they increased 9 percent.
Textile inventories in January dipped 1.5 percent against December to $9.79 billion and were up 1.5 percent from December 1994. Unfilled orders for the month increased 0.1 percent to $9.6 billion and were up 16 percent over the year.
“The industry is still solid,” Link said.
Meanwhile, the average hourly wage for textile workers increased four cents in February to $9.32 against January. That is a 22-cent increase over year-ago levels. The average hourly wage for apparel workers declined five cents in February to $7.50 against January and was up 28 cents over the year. — Fairchild News Service