Year in Review: Apparel Employment

Apparel industry employment declined overall in California over the past year, despite a three-month rally that saw an employment high of 146,600 in March 2000 before dropping back down to 142,100 in the state, according to data compiled by the California Employment Development Department (EDD). The spring surge in employment was most noticeable in Los Angeles County, where the industry picked up 1,300 jobs between November 1999 and March 2000’s level of 101,400. No doubt the result of optimism held over from the strong holiday 1999 season. Employment in the county thereafter dropped back down to 96,700 by November 2000. Apparel employment in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties dropped from 12,100 in November 1999 to 12,000 in November 2000, the latest figures available. Employment in those counties showed a slight increase in late summer, inching back up to 12,100 in August 2000. Anecdotal evidence points to some of those jobs shifting from San Francisco to nearby Oakland, where real estate is less costly, but the EDD does not yet compile data for Oakland’s Alameda County. Orange County, once again, proved to be the exception to employment trends, with employment figures increasing from 18,300 in November 1999 to 18,800 in November 2000. However, the Orange County data combines both apparel employment and textile mills employment, making it impossible to gauge whether the increases were seen at local knitting mills or in the manufacturing sector. Knitting mills continued to gain momentum in the state overall, increasing from November 1999 employment levels of 26,800 to 27,000 in November 2000, the latest figures available. Employment at textile mills in Los Angeles County, the only county the EDD separately tracks for mill employment, dropped slightly from 16,600 in November 1999 to 16,600 in November 2000. —Alison A. Nieder