Textiles & Apparel

Workers & Wages

This section discusses the current status and historical trends in labor market conditions related to establishments, employment and wages within the North Carolina and U.S. textile and apparel industries. This analysis primarily uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) based on our definition of the textile and apparel industries. Links are provided to the underlying data in the form of interactive tables, charts and maps throughout this section.

Overview

Employment and establishments have declined steadily in the United States and North Carolina across all segments of the textile and apparel value chain over the last two decades. In 1992, the U.S. textile and apparel industries employed over 1.8 million people in 53,754 establishments. By 2012 this number dropped to 575,990 workers in 35,206 establishments, a decline of 69% and 35% respectively over the last two decades (1992-2012).

North Carolina is the fourth largest overall employer, representing 9% of U.S. employment and the fifth largest in the U.S. in terms of the overall number of establishments (4% of U.S. establishments). In 1992, North Carolina was the number one employer overall, but has since fallen behind California, New York and Georgia.

Within the value chain, final product manufacturing (specifically the apparel manufacturing segment) employs the most U.S. workers, however within North Carolina the textile component manufacturing segment (yarn and fabric) is the most important in terms of establishments and employees. Although employment has declined and North Carolina’s share of U.S. employment has fallen by 10%, NC has remained the leading employer in this segment over the last 20 years and still accounts for 22% of U.S. employment. Overall wages have increased at a slower rate in NC compared to the U.S. average over the last two decades across all industries (67% vs. 82%). This was slightly more pronounced in North Carolina’s main segment (textile component manufacturing) where U.S. wages increased by 87% compared to 65%.

Geographically, the industry is concentrated in two main clusters in North Carolina. One cluster includes Guilford, Randolph, Alamance and surrounding counties and the other area includes Catawba to Gaston and Mecklenburg counties.

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North Carolina
Present (2012)

Overall

  • In North Carolina there were 1,492 establishments and 52,001 workers employed across the textile components, final products and distribution segments of the textile and apparel value chain (T2a; T3a).
  • The overall average annual wage is $40,454. The highest wages are in the artificial fibers and filaments industry ($55,060) and the lowest are in apparel manufacturing ($25,805) (T4a; C4a). Wages for the artificial fiber manufacturing are nearly double the wages for apparel manufacturing.
  • Geographically, the industry is concentrated in two main clusters. One cluster includes Guilford, Randolph, Alamance and surrounding counties and the other area includes Catawba to Gaston and Mecklenburg counties (M2a; M3a).

Main Segment

  • The main segment in North Carolina is the component manufacturing segment which employed 30,791 workers in 472 establishments in 2012 (T2a; T3a).
  • Average annual wages in the textile mill segment were $45,340 (T4a; C4a).
  • The largest concentration of establishments and employees is in the Greater Greensboro area (Guilford, Alamance & Rockingham counties) (M2a; M3a).

Historical Trends (1992-2012; 2002-2012)

Overall

  • Employment has declined steadily since 1992, with total employment declining 82% since 1992 (T3a; C3a). Employment has declined by comparable amounts in each of NC’s major segments of the value chain. The number of establishments has declined at a slower rate (-45%) than employment over the 1992 - 2012 time frame (T2a; C2a).
  • Wages have increased over the last two decades in all segments by an average of 67% (T4a; C4a).
  • Declines in employment have been documented across the state, with less than ten of North Carolina’s 100 counties unaffected. Gaston County and the greater Winston-Salem area have been the most the most affected by layoffs (M8a).
  • The largest number of layoffs and closings occurred between 1999 and 2003 (C8a).

Main Segment

  • The component manufacturing segment has contracted steadily over the last two decades from 168,163 workers in 1992 to 30,791 in 2012 (T3a; C3a).

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United States
Present (2012)
  • In 2012 there were 575,990 employees in the U.S. textile and apparel industries (of which 29% were in distribution-related segments) (C3b).
  • The largest of the three manufacturing categories, in terms of employment, is the apparel manufacturing sector, which employed roughly 148,300 workers in 2012 (T3b).
  • Overall the distribution segment has the highest average salaries ($59,338) and the lowest salaries are in the final product manufacturing segment at around $36K, which includes textile product and apparel manufacturing (C4b).
Historical Trends (1992-2012; 2002-2012)
  • In 1992, the textile and apparel industries employed over 1.8 million people in 53,754 establishments. However employment and the number of establishments have declined by 69% and 35% respectively over the last two decades (1992-2012) (C2b; C3b).
  • Employment in the components and final products manufacturing segments of the value chain have declined by 73% and 77% respectively. The distribution-related stages of the value chain have remained relatively stable in terms of the number of establishments and employees over the last two decades (C2b; C3b). Employment actually increased, however only by < 1% (T3c). The growth in the distribution segment is primarily driven by women’s and children’s wholesalers.
  • The rate of decline was been relatively similar in both decades (1992-2002 and 2002-2012) with overall employment declining by 42% and 46% respectively (T3b). For the textile mill industry 2 (NAICS 313) and the textile product manufacturing industry (NAICS 314), the rate of decline was much steeper than the previous decade.
  • The number of establishments in the U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing and distribution industries decreased by 25% between 2002 and 2012 (T2b) and employment declined by 46% during the same time frame (T3b). Wages, however, have steadily increased in all sectors, with an average annual pay increase of 33% between 2002 and 2012 (T4b).
  • The most significant increases in wages between 2002 and 2012 occurred in apparel manufacturing (+43%), women’s and children’s apparel wholesale (+39%) and artificial fiber manufacturing (+39%)(T4b). In 1992, apparel manufacturing reported the lowest average annual wages and despite significant increases, is still the second lowest in 2012 (T4b).

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Top U.S. States
Present (2012)

Overall

  • The top U.S. states in terms of employment and establishments are California, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Texas (T2c; T3c). The same five states had the most number of total employees, although the order was different: New York (347,002) had the most, followed by California (338,933), Texas (302,352), Florida (199,818), and Illinois (174,390).
  • California and New York are primarily engaged in the apparel segment of the value chain, Georgia is more specialized in textile products and textile components and North Carolina and South Carolina are engaged in textile component (yarn & fabric) production (C2c; C3c). The states have not significantly repositioned themselves in the value chain over the past decade.

Main NC Segment

  • In the textile component manufacturing segment, the top employers are NC (22%), South Carolina (14%), Georgia (14%), Tennessee (8%), California (6%) and Virginia (6%) (T3c).

Historical Trends (1992-2012; 2002-2012)

Overall

  • As the number of workers employed by the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry has declined over the last two decades, California has emerged as the dominant state, going from 13% of U.S. employment in 1992 to 38% in 2012 (T3c).
  • Of the manufacturing sectors, the textile product mill industry has remained comparatively stable in terms of employment. Over the last two decades Georgia has remained the top state with 19% of workers in 1992 and 23% in 2012. Of the top states, North Carolina and South Carolina have been hit particularly hard with an average decline in employment of 74%.
  • Of the manufacturing sectors, the textile product mill industry has remained comparatively stable in terms of employment. Over the last two decades Georgia has remained the top state with 19% of workers in 1992 and 23% in 2012. Of the top states, North Carolina and South Carolina have been hit particularly hard with an average decline in employment of 74%.
  • Of the main U.S. states, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia have all had overall average annual wage increases greater than the U.S. average of 82% over the last two decades (T4c).

Main NC Segment

  • California is the state in the top 10 employers to post an increase in employment over the course of either decade in the textile mill industry (T3c). Between 1992 and 2002, California’s employment increased by 20% and between 1992 and 2012 California jumped from the 10th largest employer in the textile mill industry to the fourth largest (T3c).
  • New York, on the other hand had the most establishments in the textile mill industry in 1992, however fell to the 3rd position by 2012 with the most significant decline of the top states over the two decades (-73%) (T2c).

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NC in the U.S. Economy
Present (2012)
  • North Carolina ranks fifth in the U.S. in terms of the overall number of establishments with 4% of U.S. establishments in the textile and apparel industries (T2c) and is the fourth largest employer, representing 9% of U.S. employment (T3c).
  • North Carolina is the leading state in textile component manufacturing segment with 22% of U.S. employment and nearly 15% of establishments (T3c; T2c).
Historical Trends (1992-2012; 2002-2012)
  • In 1992, North Carolina was the leading employer in the U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing and distribution industries. In 2002, NC fell one position to the second largest employer (behind California) (T3c; C3c).
  • North Carolina has remained the leading employer in the U.S. textile component manufacturing segment over the last 20 years. The overall number of employees has declined and NC’s share of total U.S. employment has also fallen from 32% in 1992 to 22% in 2012.
  • North Carolina has remained the third largest employer in the apparel industry since 1992 with 10% of employment in 1992 and 6% in 2012. Employment has declined by 90%; faster than the U.S. average of 84%.
  • North Carolina was the second largest employer in the textile product manufacturing industry in 1992 and has fallen to the third position in 2012.
  • Whereas the distribution segment is growing in North Carolina, this is not the focal point for the state. In 1992, North Carolina was the 10th largest employer in this segment and rose to number eight in 2012, with roughly 3% of U.S. employment in both years.
  • Overall wages have increased at a slower rate over the last two decades in North Carolina across all industries (67%) compared to the U.S. average (82%). This was slightly more pronounced in North Carolina’s main segment (textile component manufacturing) where overall wages increased by 87% compared to 65% in North Carolina (T4a; T4b).

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