Despite growth of production, no sign of jobs recovery in the US textile and apparel manufacturing sector

According to the latest World Manufacturing Production Quarterly Report released by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), for the first time over the past few years, production of wearing apparel enjoyed a positive growth of 3.9% in the third quarter of 2013 compared to the same period of 2012 in the United States. This statistics seem to support the argument that “made in USA” is making a coming back when “made in Asia” is losing cost advantages. A Just-style report quotes that “A growing number of US apparel manufacturers, government officials and industry leaders have been working on initiatives to increase domestic production. As an example, Wal-Mart has recently made a commitment to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made products over the next ten years.”

However, statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the employment level in the US textile and apparel manufacturing sector continues declining in 2013 despite the positive growth of industry output. Specifically, total employment in the US textile mills (NAICS 313), US textile product mills (NAICS 314) and US apparel manufacturing (NAICS 315) sectors were 2.7%, 3.1% and 5.4% less in November 2013 respectively compared to the average level in 2012 after seasonal adjustment.

The mixed pattern imply the changing nature of textile and apparel manufacturing in the United States. Particularly, it is important to realize that the industry is NOT going back to the old days, but rather the resurgence of “made in USA” may be the result of a new round of capitalization in the industry, which is manifested by a growing number of modern-looking plants with “floors empty of people”.   

by Sheng Lu


Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

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