Employment in the US Textile and Apparel Industry (Update: August 2014)

[Please read the updated version: U.S. Continues to Lose Apparel Manufacturing Jobs in 2016]

Employment in the textile sector has remained stable since 2011. From the end of 2013 to July 2014, employment in textile mills (NAICS 313) even slightly increased 0.1 percent, mostly contributed by fiber & yarn mills (NAICS 3131) and fabric mills (NAICS 3132). The data supports the argument that textile manufacturing is gradually returning back to the United States.


Employment in the apparel manufacturing sector (NAICS 315) continued to shrink. By July 2014, total employment in apparel manufacturing had declined by 15.6 percent since 2010 and went down 7.3 percent just from the end of 2013 to July 2014. Still it is getting harder and harder for US consumers to find “made in USA” apparel in the retail stores.


Retailers remains the leading job providers in the U.S. textile and apparel industry. By July 2014, within the total 1.76 million employment in the US textile and apparel industry (NAICS 313, 314, 315 and 448), almost 80 percent came from the retail sector (NAICS 448).


From 2010 to July 2014, employment in the US manufacturing sector as a whole enjoyed a 5.5 percent growth, much higher than the case in the textile and apparel sectors. This trend reminds us that the principal of “comparative advantage” is still working in the 21st century.


Last but not least, geographically, manufacturing jobs in the US textile and apparel industry were gradually moving from the North to the South from 2007 to 2011.




by Sheng Lu

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

11 thoughts on “Employment in the US Textile and Apparel Industry (Update: August 2014)”

  1. This article talks about the decrease in apparel and textile manufacturing in the US since it is being sourced to other countries instead. I do not think this is a bad thing though! I believe that we are lucky to have globalization (the freer movement of goods around the globe) to help American businesses produce more goods. I think that having products made in other countries is beneficial because there are larger populations in for example, China, that need jobs and have the space for a lot of factories. We learned in class that it actually benefits the American job market by giving manufacturing responsibilities to other countries, because then it allows for more retail, marketing, and managing jobs here. Does anyone else agree that we should help provide jobs in other countries?

    Kristina Bergman (Sept. 14, 2014)

    1. great comment! I hope our discussion on trade policy will help shape a new perspective on these patterns. For example, why employment in the textile industry has turned relatively stable in the US while jobs in the apparel manufacturing sector still continues significant decline. One implication for the comparative advantage theory is the “fate” of the T&A industry is not just in its own hand–it also depends on how other industries in the US will evolve and how the production factor in the US is changing. For example, in the 21st century, is capital becoming a less abundant or even more abundant factor in the US? so it is with labor.

  2. The article discusses how textile manufacturing is slowly coming back to the United States. However, employment in apparel manufacturing continued to shrink. It has declined by 15.6% since 2010 and 7.3% from 2013 to 2014 alone. This is a significant drop in the apparel manufacturing sector, which makes it even harder for people to have made in the USA products. What I found interesting was that the retail sector is the largest leading provider for jobs in the textile and apparel industry when many of the U.S’s products are made overseas. All the people who were once making apparel in the U.S lost their jobs, yet there is an abundance for retail jobs in the U.S. I agree with the comment above that we should help provide jobs for other countries, but we still need to provide jobs for Americans. Although, it does benefit us having production done overseas allowing for lower costs. We need to support Made in USA as well as use manufacturing facilities in other countries. This allows for globalization and trade.

    1. Based on your comment, you can see why the debate over trade and jobs is always going on and with divided view among people (those in the export oriented sector believing more jobs will be created if they can export more vs those in the import-competing sectors, believing more jobs can be saved if less import is allowed.

  3. This article states how the business of textile manufacturing is beginning to work its way back to the United States. From 2010 to July 2014, there was a raise in employment by 5.5% in the U.S. manufacturing sector. While this is not a large increase, it is nice that we are beginning to see the return of america back into the manufacturing sector. Also, it is interesting to see the demographic locations of manufacturing jobs moving from north to south. It may be useful to look deeper into this fact and try to figure out why this is happening. Are these companies moving down there for inspirational aspects, or is there a different reason behind it?

    1. Good thinking. the return of “made in USA” is largely contributed by machines (you may recall the article: textile factory comes back but the floor is empty”). manufacturing jobs moves from the north to the south actually is because of wage difference–the same reason why most apparel manufacturing jobs are moved overseas nowadays. If you are interested in the topic, a book is highly recommended: http://www.amazon.com/Empty-Mills-Against-Imports-Industry/dp/1442220821

  4. As countries like Asia increase their prices, many American companies and even overseas countries are moving back to and developing higher interest in American goods. This is because the prices are basically evening out so why not? The big comparative advantage overseas is not there so move back home. Through yarn forward agreements and lenient import entry of goods made partially from USA and partially from other areas of the world, “Made in USA” is still tough to find in American stores causing American apparel manufacturing to still decline. But despite this lack of manufacturing the retailer comparative advantage USA has over foreign competitors is substantial. The gradual movement of manufacturing jobs to the South may spark some positive improvements from years to come. But American manufacturing will only increase if USA can find a way to export more of its apparel overseas and advertise it overseas with limited tariff and tax rates.

    1. personally I still believe whether “made in USA” will happen depends on the nature of the industry v.s. the factor abundance in the US. capital intensive manufacturing is coming back–addictive manufacturing, bio tech, but labor intensive one like apparel will never have a chance–unless you let foreign migrants to move into the us. this is ECN 101.

  5. The article is mainly about the decrease in jobs and the lower opportunity to have “made in the USA” anymore. This did not surprise me as much as it would have if I had not taken this class and see just how bad the jobs have been leaving the US. I am not saying that moving our textile and apparel sector into underdeveloped countries is a bad problem, mainly because it gives them jobs that are having a positive impact on their economy, but at the same time our country has not been the leader in the textile and apparel industry. Globalization has a positive impact on us in this sense because in America, we can get products made from other countries that we may not otherwise have contact with before. What made me the most hopeful that this situation could change, though we do still have an comparative advantage, was the move from manufacturing in the north to the south. This could be the positive move that gets the life back into the words “made in the USA” people will see that we are trying hard to get back to what we used to be and could possible want to help this cause.

    1. I am glad you start to critically evaluate these graphs and numbers. I agree with many of your points. On the other hand, as we mentioned in the class, today’s U.S. textile and apparel industry is fundamentally different from the past. In particular, textile and apparel industry is not the industry of manufacturing textile and apparel products. Even imports contain many value created in the US–and many jobs in the US as well. These jobs are not reflected in the graphs above (note: you can see that NAICS 448 is not included). I strongly recommend you to read this article: http://www.jec.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/638a7351-c79d-4f4d-b1f2-13a4a4ae7a77/jec-fashion-industry-report—-sept-2015-update.pdf

      Overall I would say the US textile and apparel industry is still in a good shape~

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