Economic activity expanded at “a moderate pace” between early April and throughout May, according to the Federal Reserve’s Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District,” also known as the Beige Book.
The Beige Book’s finding were encouragingly, albeit moderately, positive, especially coming after a spate of reports last week that found manufacturing activity had slowed last month, consumer confidence had dropped, and the economy had added only 69,000 jobs in May.
Most Districts reported gains in production or new orders with the exceptions of Philadelphia, Richmond, and St. Louis, where factory activity was “mixed or had softened slightly.” Demand was strongest for auto and steel manufacturing, while most Districts reported increased demand for lumber and wood products, which would bode well for the construction industry.
Retail spending was “flat to modestly positive,” the survey reported. Richmond, Chicago and Minneapolis noted that sales increased at a more modest pace than in the previous report, which is being attributed to unseasonably warm weather and an earlier Easter holiday that shifted sales into the previous reporting period. But warm spring weather continued to boost traffic and sales for retailers in Philadelphia and Cleveland.
Residential and real estate market activity improved in most Districts since the previous report, with home sales above year-ago levels in most areas of the country. New York, Cleveland and Richmond noted a pickup in the pace of distressed sales. Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, San Francisco and St. Louis reported increased new home construction.
Hiring was “steady or showed a modest increase,” the report stated. Hiring was most prevalent in the manufacturing, construction, information technology, and professional services sectors, although firms “continued to face difficulty finding high trained or skilled workers.”
The Beige Book is issued eight times a year and is comprised of reports from 12 district banks and interviews with businesses, economists and market experts.
The Beige Book will be the basis for discussions at the Fed’s next policy meeting, June 19-20.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.