Imported merchandise has lowered the price of consumer goods in the US while creating more local jobs, a new study has claimed.

Imports Work for America, compiled by Trade Partnership Worldwide, commissioned by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and supported by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), aims to measure the net effect of imports on the US economy.

It found that, in 2012, Americans bought nearly 20bn garments and more than 2bn pairs of shoes, of which 97% and more than 98% respectively were imported.

The report said that, as well as supporting more than 4m jobs in the US apparel and footwear sector, imports have helped to lower the average American family’s spending to only 2.6% of their annual income on clothes and shoes in 2012 – well down on ten years ago.

“Imports provide American families with products they need at prices they can afford, and also create jobs that keep those families prosperous,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

"Retailers sell millions of imported items, while US manufacturers rely heavily on imported parts and raw materials to create the exports they ship around the world.

"Imports are a win for every segment of our nation's economy, from the factory floor to the checkout line."

AAFA president and CEO Kevin Burke said the study made it harder for policy makers to avoid a "robust and open" discussion about the positive role of imports.

He added: "We look forward to continuing the dialogue as the US apparel and footwear industry's primary voice in Washington in pursuit of a comprehensive trade agenda that creates jobs from both exports and imports, promotes corporate social responsibility around the world, and eliminates barriers that negatively impact workers and consumers alike."