Textiles Spotlight

The Textiles Industry in the United States


The U.S. textile industry remains one of the most significant sectors of the manufacturing industry and ranks among the top markets in the world by export value: $17 billion in 2017. At 227,000 U.S. jobs, the U.S. industry is a globally competitive manufacturer of textiles, including textile raw materials, yarns, fabrics, apparel and home furnishings, and other textile finished products. Capital expenditures nearly reached $2 billion in 2016. In recent years, companies have focused on reorienting their businesses, finding more effective work processes, investing in niche products and markets, and controlling costs through advanced technologies.

Industry Subsectors

Non-wovens: The end use markets for non-wovens are classified as either disposable or durables. The disposable end use markets are made up of product categories such as absorbent hygiene, wipes, filtration, medical and surgical and protective apparel, while the durable end use markets are comprised of geosynthetics, home and office furnishings, transportation, building construction and other durables. Nonwovens are being used to make products lighter, more efficient, and cost effective. More and more of these lighter and longerlasting non-wovens are being introduced in a variety of fields including packaging and autos.

Specialty and Industrial Fabrics: Specialty and industrial fabrics serve an array of markets, everything from awnings to auto airbags. As the U.S. specialty fabric business has continued to grow, some areas are seeing rapid advancement, for example, the base fabric used in road construction, erosion control, and spoil containment in landfills. Automotive textiles represent the most valuable world market for industrial textiles. These materials cover a broad range of applications, including upholstery and seating, floor covering and trunk liners, as well as safety belts, airbags, thermal and sound insulators, filters, hoses, tires and a variety of textile-reinforced flexible and hard composites.

Medical Textiles: Medical textiles are one of the most important, continuously expanding and growing fields in technical textiles. The medical textile industry has been improving existing products and creating new ones with new materials and innovative designs. Some of these new products are being designed for lessinvasive surgical procedures, infection control, and accelerated healing.

Protective Apparel: North America emerged as the leading regional market for industrial protective apparel and accounted for over half of the total market volume in 2013. Stringent regulatory guidelines coupled with high levels of safety awareness in the industry are expected to drive the regional market growth over the next six years.

Federal Programs & Legislation

Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute: On March 18, 2015, the Department of Defense committed $75 million to a competition for a Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MFT-MII). In March 2016, it was announced that a consortium of over 50 companies and universities were awarded the grant to form a new manufacturing hub focused on revolutionary fibers and textiles technologies, the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Institute (AFFOA), headquartered at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. AFFOA will bring over $300 million in public-private investment from leading universities and manufacturers to develop futuristic fabrics and textiles helping to accelerate the revival of textile manufacturing in the United States. The AFFOA will ensure that America leads in the manufacturing of new products from leading edge innovations in fiber science, commercializing fibers and textiles with extraordinary properties. In 2017, the AFFOA unveiled several key milestones to support its mission, including the launch state-of-the art products, the opening of the first of its kind facility for prototyping advance fabrics, the creation of start-up incubation space and workforce development activities in the field of advanced fabrics and fibers. 

Prepared in collaboration with the International Trade Administration's Industry & Analysis Unit (I&A)

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Industry & Analysis (I&A) staff of industry, trade and economic analysts devise and implement international trade and investment strategies to strengthen the global competitiveness of U.S. industries. By combining in-depth analysis with the International Trade Administration’s industry relationships, I&A devises initiatives to unlock export and investment opportunities for U.S. businesses, represent the interests of U.S. industry in trade negotiations, and publishes research on global opportunities for U.S. companies.