After rebounding in March on the strong dollar and normalization of West Coast port operations, apparel import growth settled down to a more normal pace in April.
According to Commerce Department data released Wednesday, apparel imports grew by 1.8% in April compared to the same month last year, to $6.9 billion, a billion dollars less than in March.
The increase greatly outpaced that of overall imports, which fell by 6 percent in the month to $190 billion.
The biggest driver of the overall decrease in imports was a steep decline in the value of consumer goods, by $4.9 billion, representing two-thirds of the total good imports decline.
On a 12-month smoothed basis, which corrects for volatility of data in a particular month, apparel import growth was 3.1% in April, slightly less than March.
China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India are the top five providers of U.S. imported apparel so far this year, though Indonesia has seen its apparel exports to the U.S. drop in the first four months of the year compared to 2014.
Apparel exports continued to outperform the total export market, however, increasing by 7 percent compared to last April, to $580 million. Overall exports of goods and services dropped by 4.5% in the month, hurt by the strength of the dollar. On a 12-month smoothed basis, however, apparel exports were flat.
Canada is the biggest importer of U.S. apparel so far this year, comprising more than one-third of exports, followed by Mexico, the U.K., Japan and El Salvador.