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Web Exclusive | July 2017

Production crisis still plagues US mills

Despite being one of the world’s largest textile and apparel markets, the US domestic textile production is still struggling to recover from previous declines from 2008 to 2009, according to a report from the US Congressional Research Service. The report also indicates that the production of textile and the number of textile mills in the US are still 25 per cent lower than in 2007. The value of textile production totaled about $55 billion in 2015, down 1 per cent from a year earlier. So far, textile production only represents around 1.2 per cent of total US manufacturing shipments. According to insights and data from the US government, there were over 2000 fewer textile manufacturing facilities in 2014 than in 2004, although textile manufacturers in the US have been investing heavily in technology to reduce operating costs and increase productivity. Some modern textile mills have become almost completely automated, producing thousands of square yards textile every hour, while employment in these mills are as few as 10 or 20 people. According to the US Census Bureau, the US textile industry invested $14.2 billion in plants and equipment between 2005 and 2014.

Among all US manufacturing industries, textiles rank near the top in productivity increases, thanks to heavy investment in automation and the closure of less efficient mills. However, over the past decade more than 200,000 textile manufacturing jobs have been lost due to automation. At the end of 2015, the US domestic textile industry employed about 232,000 workers, accounting for about 2% of the 12.3 million domestic factory jobs in the US. Average wage for the US textile worker was approximately $41,500 in 2015, far below the average of $64,300 for overall manufacturing jobs.

Over the last few decades, textile employment in the US declined the most during economic downturns, but has failed to increase after economic recovery. In 2015, textile manufacturers added more than 1,100 jobs over the previous year, the first significant employment gain in nearly 20 years. However, due to automation, consolidation, and import competition, the industry was still struggling to see sustainable growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the overall employment in the US textile industry is to shrink to around 174,000 by 2024.

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