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August 1995, Vol. 118, No. 8
Lauren A. Murray
T he U.S. textiles and apparels industries employ about 1.6 million U.S. workers-1 in 10 manufacturing workers and more than the auto and aircraft industries combined.1 Textiles and apparel reached employment peaks long ago and both have been influenced by similar forces, including productivity, foreign trade, competition and business cycles. While employment losses have affected the two industries, the duration and depth of those losses differ.
The textiles industry produces base products such as threads, yarn, and cordage and woven fabrics, carpets, and rugs; in contrast, the apparel industry produces finished clothing products made from base fabrics. Employment in the textiles industry peaked in 1948, 25 years before the apparel industry. The textiles industry has lost one-half of its employment base since its peak level; the apparel industry has trimmed one-third of its jobs since its peak in 1973. And since 1970, the industries have lost 30 percent of their combined work force; in the current expansion, the industries have failed to participate in the strong cyclical growth that has been prevalent in much of manufacturing. (See table 1).
Although the textiles and apparel industries are closely related, different reasons account for their respective job losses. Both industries will continue to face intense global competition in the current decade, and, while some manufacturers may become more profitable, employment will most likely continue to fall.
This excerpt is from an article published in the August 1995 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 Employment data are from the Current Employment Statistics Survey and appear in Employment, Hours, and Earnings, United States, 1909-1990, Volume II, Bulletin 2370, and Employment, Hours, and Earnings, United States, 1981-93, Bulletin 2429 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1991 and August).
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