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Memphis Burgundy Book: Despite Improvement, Contacts Are Less Optimistic About 2014 Prospects


MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Our quarterly survey of business contacts revealed a slightly less optimistic view of economic conditions in 2014 than three months earlier. Nearly one in five respondents expects conditions this year to be worse than last year.

The Burgundy Books offer comprehensive data and information on the economic conditions of each of the St. Louis Fed’s four zones: St. Louis, Little Rock, Louisville and Memphis.  The publication, which is released quarterly, includes the following sections: labor markets, manufacturing, real estate and construction, the household sector, banking and finance, and agriculture and natural resources.  Audio summaries of economic conditions in the zones are also available.

View the entire Memphis report at:

The Memphis zone of the Federal Reserve comprises northern Mississippi, eastern Arkansas, and western Tennessee and a total population of approximately 3.1 million people, including the 1.3 million who live in the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

The Memphis zone’s unemployment rate declined nearly 0.75 percentage points in the first quarter to 8.8 percent. In Memphis, employment in the trade, transportation, and utilities industry rose at a modest pace; this growth stemmed mostly from strong payroll gains in the retail and wholesale trade industries.

Wage growth in the first quarter was especially strong in Memphis, but generally weaker in other areas. Growth of Mississippi and Tennessee manufacturing exports in the first quarter continued to surpass the nation’s growth by a healthy margin.

Like most areas of the District, the Memphis residential housing market was soft in the first quarter of 2014. Still, house prices were up strongly in Memphis and building permits rose sharply in Jonesboro. Office vacancy rates in Memphis remained exceptionally high in the first quarter.

Households continued to reduce their credit card and mortgage balances in the first quarter. Relative to the nation, mortgage delinquency rates in the Memphis zone were modestly lower, while credit card and auto loan delinquency rates were modestly higher.

Compared with three months earlier, bank profitability (return on assets) increased noticeably at Tennessee and Mississippi banks in the first quarter, while easing slightly at Arkansas banks.

Farmers devoted considerably more acreage to cotton and rice this year and substantially less acreage to corn.

To view all of the Burgundy Books, see

In addition, MP3 audio clips of highlights from the Burgundy Books can be heard at

The next Burgundy Book will be released on September 23, 2014.