WASHINGTON — Inflation was a stranger to the domestic women’s apparel industry in April, as wholesale prices in the sector declined 0.2 percent against March, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Compared with April 1999, women’s apparel prices at the producer level were down 0.1 percent. The prices are quoted on a nonseasonally adjusted basis.
Producer prices for all apparel were down 0.2 percent for the month and off 0.1 percent from April 1999. Wholesale prices for men’s and boys’ apparel last month were unchanged against March and were up 0.2 percent over the year. Producer prices for girls’, children’s and infants’ apparel last month were up 0.3 percent against March and gained 2.2 percent from April 1999.
The low-to-no-inflation picture in the apparel industry occurred as wholesale prices for all manufactured goods fell 0.3 percent, after increases in March and February of 1 percent, which were largely attributed to surges in energy prices.
Although energy prices in April continued to be on the rise, increasing 5.1 percent against March, their impact is tapering off.
The wholesale price index is a measure of inflation at the producer level. The government Tuesday will report on inflation at the retail level during March when it releases the Consumer Price Index. That’s the same day the Federal Reserve meets to decide whether to increase interest rates again, which many economists say is likely. The Fed has raised rates five times by a quarter point each since June 30 to slow the booming economy and keep inflation at bay.
Meanwhile, wholesale prices for textiles increased 0.1 percent in April against March and were down 0.3 percent from year-ago levels. Synthetic fiber prices increased 0.7 percent for the month and were up 0.3 percent from April 1999.
Processed yarn and thread prices were unchanged in April against March and declined 0.6 percent from April 1999. Gray fabric prices increased 1.6 percent for the month and were off 3 percent from year-ago levels, as finished fabric prices were up 0.6 percent in April against March and were unchanged against April 1999.
Among the women’s apparel categories with notable price changes last month were sweaters, jackets and jerseys, which declined 1.1 percent against March and jumped 8.4 percent from April 1999. Jeans prices were unchanged for the month, but declined 2.6 percent for the year, as dress prices were also unchanged in April and posted a 3 percent decline over the 12 months.
Swimsuit prices were down 10.1 percent in April against March and fell 9.8 percent over the year.