U S Textile Industry Third Quarter TradeandEconomic Report
lsWASHINGTON, D.C. -- While the rate of growth of textile and apparel imports slowed somewhat during September 2000, their total volume for the first three quarters of the year continued to set new records, according to a report issued today by the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI). According to data released Nov. 21 by the U.S. Department of Commerce, textile and apparel imports increased 9.7 percent during September compared to September 1999, with imports of textile products - yarn, fabric and made-up furnishings - rising 10.6 percent above the prior year's level and apparel imports growing 8.9 percent. During the first three quarters of the current year, textile imports rose 19 percent and apparel imports increased 15 percent, bringing the combined gain to 17 percent. "September was the first month in over a year that total textile and apparel imports didn't increase by double-digit rates," said ATMI President Roger W. Chastain, chairman and CEO of Mount Vernon Mills, Inc. "After seeing import increases of 17, 19, 24 and even 32 percent month after month, I suppose we should be grateful that September's increase was 'only' 9.7 percent," Chastain continued. "Nonetheless, there are individual country increases that are disturbing. Textile and apparel imports from Pakistan are up 37 percent for the first three quarters of this year, compared to last year. Thailand is up 22 percent and imports from Brazil are 67 percent ahead of last year. "All of these countries have closed their domestic markets to our goods, but they're free to flood us with theirs," Chastain said. "Our government needs to use the tools at its disposal to compel these countries, and others, to live up to their Uruguay Round commitments and provide access to their textile and apparel markets. "There is some good news in the trade data, however," said Chastain. "Exports of textile products rose nearly 23 percent during September and for the first nine months of the year are up 17 percent. This will be a record-breaking year for textile exports, but we could be doing more if we could get access to markets that remain closed to our products." The nine-month increase in textile exports was paced by North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Mexico and Canada, the United States' first and second highest destinations for textile exports. For the first three quarters of the year, U.S. textile exports to Mexico totaled $2.85 billion, a 41.5 percent increase over the same period last year, while U.S. textile exports to Canada reached $2.07 billion , a 3.4 percent increase. Chastain noted, "Between them, our northern and southern neighbors account for 63 percent of U.S. textile exports." Export gains were also registered with the 24 countries that are members of the Caribbean Basin Initiative -- up 16.6 percent from the first nine months of 1999 - and the European Union, 6.2 percent ahead of prior- year levels. Exports of apparel, which consist mostly of cut fabric pieces, rose 7.1 percent during September and are a modest 1.2 percent ahead for the year to date. "On the homefront, we're looking at a challenging time for the U.S. textile industry," Chastain said. "Interest rate increases are hitting housing and auto sales, where we'll be seeing a slowdown, along with a cooling of consumer spending." In other industry news, the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau show the following: *As the U.S. economy slowed in the third quarter, textile mill shipments also declined. Third quarter textile mill shipments fell 1.9 percent from the second quarter and lagged third quarter 1999 by more than 2 percent. This weakness brought shipments during the first three quarters of 2000 to $58.3 billion, slightly below the same period in 1999. *New textile orders had a sharper decline than shipments in the third quarter. Down nearly 5 percent from the prior quarter, new orders were more than 4 percent below third quarter 1999. However, strength earlier in the year kept cumulative new orders for the first three quarters of 2000 nearly 1 percent ahead of the same period last year. However, new orders, which had been above shipment levels from January through July, fell below shipments during August and September, indicating continuing weakness in shipments over the near term. *The weakness in new orders brought unfilled orders in September down more than 1 percent from the prior month and nearly 2 percent below September 1999 levels. *The slowdown in shipments pushed inventories up almost 1 percent in September from August to a level more than 4 percent above September 1999. With shipments down and inventories up, the inventory-to-shipments ratio jumped in September to its highest reading since February 1991. *Following two consecutive quarterly increases, fiber consumption on the cotton spinning system dropped 7.5 percent in the third quarter of 2000 to less than 1.5 billion pounds. This brought third-quarter consumption more than 1 percent below the comparable quarter in 1999. Consumption during the first three quarters of 2000 was down 3.6 percent to less than 4.7 billion pounds. *Although overall employment in the United States is tight and the unemployment rate hovers near a 30-year low, textile industry employment continued to erode. The industry employed 534,000 workers in October 2000, 2.9 percent or 16,000 below the same month in 1999. *Like other textile indicators, the textile workweek declined in the third quarter of 2000. Down 30 minutes from the second quarter, the third quarter workweek was six minutes shorter than that of third-quarter 1999. However, despite another decline in October, the industry's average workweek during the first 10 months of 2000 was 24 minutes longer than the comparable period in 1999. This increase was because of workweek strength during the first half of this year. *Third-quarter textile sales and profits figures were not available at press time. However, textile corporate sales rose 7.3 percent in the second quarter of 2000 over the prior quarter. Second-quarter sales, at $15.2 billion, were 1 percent below the comparable quarter in 1999, and sales during the first half of 2000 fell to $29.4 billion, 3.2 percent below the same period last year. *Although second-quarter 2000 after-tax profits were 7.1 percent higher than second quarter 1999 results, at $150 million, they were more than 44 percent below the prior-quarter's profits. Despite lower second-quarter figures, first-half 2000 profits reached $420 million, nearly 22 percent higher than first-half 1999 results.