Byline: Kristi Ellis

WASHINGTON — Textile and apparel manufacturing lost a combined 9,000 jobs in September, though the unemployment numbers did not reflect the disastrous hit to the economy after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
The pay period in the Labor Department’s survey ended on Sept. 12 and job loss related directly or indirectly to the catastrophes will be reflected in the October data.
“The unemployment rate for last month remained steady at 4.9 percent, which reflects a somewhat stabilized economy prior to the Sept. 11 attacks,” said Elaine Chao, U.S. Labor Secretary. “But that was then and this is now.”
Chao said the hijackings and resultant loss of life and property “sent a shockwave through our economy and we haven’t felt the full effects, yet.”
She noted that jobless claims have spiked, “upward sharply” in the weeks following the attacks, reaching a new nine-year high this week.
Textile and apparel factory employment declines in September eased up from a sharp plunge of 26,000 jobs in August, while the overall unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9 percent.
Apparel manufacturing jobs lost 6,000 in September and stood at 550,000, but plunged by 70,000 against September 2000. The textile industry lost another 3,000 jobs from their payrolls in September and 62,000 against a year ago.
“We were hit by imports from the Far East and exchange rates, and [the terrorist attacks are] just compounding the situation,” said Dave Link, chief economist of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute.
The average workweek in textiles in September was unchanged from last month at 39.9 hours, but it is only 12 minutes higher than the July workweek, which was the lowest since January 1996. The workweek last month was 54 minutes shorter against September 2000.
Fabric, yarn and finishing shipments in August dropped 2.4 percent, to $3.75 billion. Apparel shipments were up 1 percent, to $5.08 billion.
Meanwhile, employment in apparel and accessories stores, which increased slightly in August, dropped 7,000 to 1.215 million in September, while department stores added another 7,000 to their payrolls and ended September with 2.456 million.
“I wouldn’t expect terribly negative numbers going forward for retail as a whole,” said Carl Steidtman, chief economist at Deloitte Research. However, he said he expects the overall employment number next month to be “quite negative.”
The other issue for retailers going into the Christmas holiday season is the degree to which they hire temporary help.
“What drives consumers to spend more is employment,” Steidtman said. “But I expect to see negative employment reports for the next couple of months.”

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