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US Apparel Imports Up Despite Weak Demand and Slow Growth

Though U.S. apparel imports inched up in April, demand is weak and growth is muted.

Imports of apparel and clothing accessories were up 1.9% over March at $6.23 billion, but imports slid year to date, according to the most recent Commerce Department data.

April’s apparel trade growth falls in line with total U.S. imports in the month, which were up 2.1% to $220.2 billion.

Apparel exports were $253 million, down from $300 million in March and 3.6% lower year to date.

Overall exports of goods and services from the U.S. totaled $182.8 billion, up 1.4% over March.

The trade deficit widened in the month, jumping 5.3% to $37.44 billion, which points to slow global economic growth. The gap was lower than what economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected, but March’s trade deficit was revised to a lower $35.54 billion (the lowest deficit since 2013) from an earlier estimate of $40.44 billion.

For the first four months of the year, U.S. imports and exports were down roughly 5 percent from the same time a year before.

All signs point to weak global demand at the start of the year, which was further—and consistently—evidenced at retail where brands reported losses, light foot traffic and weather that left stock in their stores.

The strong dollar hasn’t helped global growth much as it has cut into demand for American made, and its rise in value when pegged against other currencies meant exports were pricier for foreign purchasers.