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Apparel Outpaces Total U.S. Import Increase in July

U.S. apparel import growth accelerated in July, continuing a trend that began last September, according to just-released Department of Commerce data.

Total apparel imports (on a CIF basis) were $9.3 billion in July, a 4.9% increase over July of last year and a 29% increase from June. Apparel import growth outpaced that of total U.S. imports of goods and services, which rose 3% in July compared to last year (after dropping almost 4% in June) in part by a big jump in automobile imports.

On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel imports grew by 3.2%, their fourth straight month of accelerating growth.

Rumors that China is becoming a less important source of imported apparel appear to be premature, however. Between June and July, apparel imports from China rebounded 39%, to $3.9 billion, and grew to 35% of total year-to-date apparel imports, up from 34% in June. Imports from Bangladesh also surged by 37% between June and July, but remain much smaller, at $389 million. Imports from Sri Lanka are accelerating, which will propel the country into the list of the top 10 U.S. trading partners before long, unseating Pakistan.

After remaining flat in June, apparel exports gained 4.7% in July, to $483 million. The United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong have seen significant increases in apparel imported from the U.S., while exports to Mexico and El Salvador have fallen precipitously. Exports to Europe have been mixed, with shipments to The Netherlands and Italy rising but those to Benelux dropping.

Footwear imports increased by 2.7% in July compared to a year ago, a smaller increase than in recent months and the seventh month in a row of decelerating growth.

On a 12-month smoothed basis imports grew by gained 5.2%.  China is the biggest source of U.S. footwear, representing more than two-thirds of U.S. footwear imports, followed by Vietnam. In July, Italy regained its position as the third largest source of footwear to the U.S., pushing Indonesia down to the number four spot.

Footwear exports dropped 3.1%, to $63 million. The biggest U.S. export markets for footwear are Canada, South Korea and Japan.