2015 RETROSPECTIVE: Despite Some Monthly Increases, Apparel Employment Flat in ’15

The state saw some slight increases in apparel manufacturing employment throughout 2015, according to the California Employment Development Department, but over the course of 12 months ending in October (the latest figures tracked by the EDD), apparel and textile employment in the state remained flat.

The EDD tracks apparel employment in a number of ways, including “cut-and-sew apparel factories,” which are defined by companies that purchase the fabric, which is then cut and sewn. Another category is “apparel knitting mills,” which are defined as vertical manufacturers that produce apparel from fabric knit in-house; knitting mills that only make fabric are classified as textile mills. According to the EDD, “apparel manufacturing” includes companies that produce ready-to-wear apparel using materials owned by others, a category that includes sewing contractors, jobbers and tailors.

Los Angeles continues to be the hub of apparel manufacturing in the state—and in the country—as manufacturers, brands and retailers take advantage of Southern California’s resources for quick-turn goods and made-in-America production.

But the EDD’s numbers are missing many of the key jobs categories in California’s apparel industry, according to California Fashion Association President Ilse Metchek.

“There’s no designers [broken out]; there’s no independent commissioned sales reps,” she said. “If you don’t have sales or design, you can’t get a full picture.”

EDD’s employment figures for designers include apparel but also include other job categories such as graphic designers, Metchek said. And other apparel-related employment such as workers at transportation companies that specialize in apparel logistics are not tracked separately either, she said.

Last year, the CFA and CIT Commercial Services released a report profiling Southern California’s fashion industry. The report found that there were 97,384 people working in apparel, textile and wholesale jobs in Southern California. According to the profile, there were more than 190,000 direct and indirect apparel jobs in California, which includes independent fashion designers, graphic designers specializing in apparel, showroom owners, support businesses that focus exclusively on the apparel industry such as software developers, attorneys, accountants, equipment leasing, distribution, compliance and fashion education.

CIT and the CFA are currently working on a new Los Angeles–area Fashion Industry Profile, which will be released in February.