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US Apparel Import Declines Continue

The United States is increasingly importing less textiles and apparel as manufacturing remains in a slump and consumer confidence isn’t faring all that much better.

In September, the U.S. imported 2.53 billion square meter equivalents (SMEs) of apparel, a 5.8% fall from the same time last year and a greater decline that last month’s 4.3%, according to latest data from the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).

Textile imports were down 6 percent in the month to 2.95 billion SMEs, compared to August’s only 1 percent year over year decline.

South Korea saw the biggest share gain in the month, with imports of textiles and apparel up 6.7% to 124.4 million SMEs. Mexico followed with a 5.5% share gain to 202 million SMEs.

Pakistan lost the greatest share of the market in September, with its textile and apparel exports to the U.S. falling 11.9% to 194.1 million SMEs. China also lost 9.7% share in the month to 2.8 billion SMEs after falling 7.5% in August. Vietnam’s share slipped 8.3% to 355.5 million SMEs, while Bangladesh saw a slight 1.3% uptick in its textile and apparel exports to the U.S.

In dollar terms, textile and apparel imports were down 13 percent this September over last to $9.2 billion.

The trade declines could be a reflection of decreased consumer demand across the board, as consumer confidence took a hit last month.

According to data from the Conference Board, consumer confidence fell to 98.6 in October after a nine-year high of 104.1 in September, as consumers’ outlook about the economy grew a little more tepid.

American manufacturing, however, appears to be on an upswing. The Institute for Supply Management said last week that its Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) for October rose to 51.9 compared to September’s 51.5, and both above 50 readings indicate growth.

Looking more closely at textiles and apparel manufacturing, though, growth may be more tame as textile mills cut 2,400 jobs in September and apparel producers lost 1,800.