U.S. net textile and apparel imports reached record levels in 2017

A chart showing U.S. net imports of textiles and apparel, by fiber type, years 2009 to 2017

U.S. net textile and apparel imports increased to record levels in 2017, as demand for clothing increased along with the expanding economy. Net imports in 2017 approached 16.2 billion raw-fiber-equivalent pounds, 2 percent above 2016. Total textile and apparel imports surpassed 19.7 billion pounds in 2017, compared with 19.3 billion pounds in 2016. Meanwhile, textile and apparel exports in 2017 totaled 3.5 billion pounds, similar to a year earlier. With net imports of synthetic fiber products rising for 8 consecutive years, cotton’s share has declined considerably as growth in “athleisure” wear has increased demand for synthetic fibers. During each of the last 4 years, synthetic fiber products accounted for the largest share of total net imports. In 2017, synthetic textile and apparel products contributed 50 percent to the total, while cotton products accounted for 43 percent. Linen, wool, and silk products, combined, added an additional 7 percent. Although these percentages equaled those of 2016, suggesting at least a pause in cotton’s declining share, the percentages for cotton and synthetic products were nearly reversed just 5 years ago. This chart appears in the ERS Cotton and Wool Outlook Newsletter, released in March 2018.

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