As the American economy hit the skids in March, apparel imports fell 15 percent to $5.18 billion compare to a year earlier, led by a 52 percent decline from China to $572.26 million, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA) reported Tuesday.
For the first quarter of 2020, U.S. apparel imports were down 12.07 percent to $17.85 billion from the same three months in 2019, according to OTEXA. China’s shipments fell 43.12 percent to a value of $3.27 billion in the period.
This brought China down to the No. 2 supplier in the month and quarter, seemingly for the first time in decades, surpassed by Vietnam in both cases. Imports from Vietnam, which has suffered relatively little from the coronavirus pandemic healthwise or in factory closures, increased 7 percent March to $998.19 million and rose 4.5 percent in the quarter to $3.38 billion.
Among other major Asian suppliers, imports from Bangladesh, where factories closed for periods of time, declined 1.7 percent to $523.9 million for the month, but were up 6.73 percent to $1.68 billion in the quarter. Shipments from Cambodia rose 19.9 percent in the month to $243.21 million and were up 23.22 percent for the quarter to $1.15 billion.
India, where factories have also closed, saw its imports to the U.S. fall 6 percent in March to $380.89 million and drop 1.5 percent to $1.14 billion in the quarter. Imports from Indonesia declined 9.5 percent in the month to $365.53 million and fell 4.42 percent to $1.15 billion in the year to date, while Pakistan’s shipments were up 1.6 percent in March to $118.69 million and rose 0.5 percent in the quarter to $357 million.
Among the major Western Hemisphere suppliers, imports from Honduras dropped 21 percent to $190.61 million in the month and fell 5.64 percent year to date to $567 million, while shipments from Mexico declined 19 percent in March to $226.34 million and dropped 14.07 percent to $667 million in the quarter. Imports from El Salvador decreased 8 percent in the month to $143.31 million and dipped 1.1 percent to $414 million in the quarter.
Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced that the goods and services deficit was $44.4 billion in March, up $4.6 billion from $39.8 billion in February.
“The declines in March exports and imports were, in part, due to the impact of COVID-19, as many businesses were operating at limited capacity or ceased operations completely, and the movement of travelers across borders was restricted,” BEA said.
March exports were $187.7 billion, $20 billion less than February, while March imports were $232.2 billion, $15.4 billion less than February.
For the quarter, the goods and services deficit decreased $28.1 billion, or 17.8 percent, from the same period in 2019. Exports were down $21.7 billion, or 3.5 percent, and imports declined $49.7 billion, or 6.4 percent.