State of the U.S. Textile and Apparel Industry: Output, Employment, and Trade Patterns (Updated March 2019)

The size of the U.S. textile and apparel industry has significantly shrunk over the past decades. However, U.S. textile manufacturing is gradually coming back. Notably, the value added of U.S. textile manufacturing reached $18.88 billion in 2017, the highest level since 2009.

Nevertheless, the share of U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing in the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dropped to only 0.15% in 2017 from 0.57% in 1998, as the case in most advanced economies with a mature industrial system.

It is also important to note that U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing is changing in nature. For example, textiles had accounted for over 80% of the total output of the U.S. textile and apparel industry as of 2017, up from around 50% in the late 1990s. Meanwhile, clothing had only accounted for 12% of the total U.S. fiber consumption in 2012 (the latest data available), whereas the manufacturing of non-apparel textile products in the United States, such as industrial and technical textiles, has been growing particularly fast over the past decade.

Manufacturing jobs are NOT coming back to the U.S. textile and apparel industry. In 2018, U.S. textile manufacturing (NAICS 313 and 314) and apparel manufacturing (NAICS 315) lost 2,100 and 4,800 jobs respectively. However, improved productivity is one critical factor behind the job losses.

Regarding international trade, the United States remains a leading textile exporter and apparel importer overall. Interesting enough, both the value of U.S. textile and apparel imports enjoyed much faster growth in 2018 than in the previous years. Notably, for the first time since 2001, the U.S. textile sector (NAICS 313) experienced a trade deficit ($172 million) rather than a trade surplus. Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit in apparel (NAICS 315) reached $86,097 million in 2018, up nearly 6% from a year ago. These unusual trade patterns could be partially affected by the U.S.-China tariff war, which didn’t seem to be helpful with solving the trade deficit concerns.

by Sheng Lu

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

3 thoughts on “State of the U.S. Textile and Apparel Industry: Output, Employment, and Trade Patterns (Updated March 2019)”

  1. It makes sense to me that the U.S. retail industry is in a trade deficit – almost all of the clothes sold in the United States to consumers are produced/manufactured overseas in developing countries. We are constantly importing billions of dollars worth of clothes from these countries, while exporting almost no apparel products.

  2. I find it surprising that the U.S. textile industry reached $18.88 billion in 2017. In class, we discussed that over the last couple decades the US textile and apparel industries have significantly declined. This makes the sudden incline to be shocking. Since the United States has improved their productivity this has negatively impacted jobs in the country. The article states that “in 2018, U.S. textile manufacturing an apparel manufacturing lost 2,100 and 4,400 job respectively”. This could be caused by the high number of textiles and apparel we import. If we import products that we can make, than we are giving away jobs. Although, this would come at a higher cost.

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