Second Quarter Burgundy Books: Eighth District Economic Conditions Are Mixed

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The most recent Burgundy Books, released by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis on June 24, show mixed displays of optimism about the local economies of the four zones—St. Louis; Memphis, Tenn.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Louisville, Ky.—comprising the Eighth Federal Reserve District.

The majority of business contacts in the St. Louis and Little Rock zones expect economic conditions to be better or somewhat better in 2014 compared to last year, and Louisville zone contacts showed modestly higher optimism about the economy in 2014 than existed three months earlier. However, nearly one in five business contacts in the Memphis zone expect conditions to be worse this year than last year.


The St. Louis zone’s unemployment rate averaged 7.2 percent in the first quarter, a sizable increase from the 6.7 percent seen in the previous quarter. Still, the zone continues to have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the Eighth District.

The Memphis zone’s unemployment rate declined to 8.8 percent in the first quarter. In Memphis, employment in the trade, transportation and utilities industry rose at a modest pace, and wage growth was especially strong, though it was weaker in other areas around the zone.

The Little Rock zone’s unemployment rate averaged 6.8 percent in the first quarter, down from 7.2 percent in the previous quarter. Two of the four metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the zone—Fayetteville, Ark., and Little Rock—had unemployment rates below the national average of 6.7 percent.

The Louisville zone’s unemployment rate averaged 7.2 percent in the first quarter. This was its lowest rate since 2008.


Residential home prices increased in three of the four MSAs in the St. Louis zone, paced by sizable increases in St. Louis and Columbia, Mo.

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, Ark.

Compared with a year earlier, house prices and single-family building permits declined in the first quarter in the Little Rock zone, although Fayetteville and Texarkana, Ark.-Texas, were notable exceptions.

Residential construction activity and single-family house prices declined in most areas of the Louisville zone in the first quarter. However, business contacts in Louisville continued to report robust growth in the multifamily sector.

Household Spending

Mortgage and credit card balances rose modestly in the first quarter in the St. Louis zone, but still remained below last year’s levels. Mortgage loan delinquencies were about half of the national average.

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

Households in the Little Rock zone continue to pare their mortgage debt and credit card balances. However, auto loan debt increased at a healthy pace in the first quarter and by a larger percentage than seen nationally.

In the fourth quarter of 2013, nominal per capita income for Indiana and Kentucky rose modestly faster than the national pace. The pace of consumer auto debt continued to increase but has slowed sharply over the past few quarters.

Additional Resources

Posted In HousingLabor  |  Tagged burgundy booksemploymenthousing
Commenting Policy: We encourage comments and discussions on our posts, even those that disagree with conclusions, if they are done in a respectful and courteous manner. All comments posted to our blog go through a moderator, so they won't appear immediately after being submitted. We reserve the right to remove or not publish inappropriate comments. This includes, but is not limited to, comments that are:
  • Vulgar, obscene, profane or otherwise disrespectful or discourteous
  • For commercial use, including spam
  • Threatening, harassing or constituting personal attacks
  • Violating copyright or otherwise infringing on third-party rights
  • Off-topic or significantly political
The St. Louis Fed will only respond to comments if we are clarifying a point. Comments are limited to 1,500 characters, so please edit your thinking before posting. While you will retain all of your ownership rights in any comment you submit, posting comments means you grant the St. Louis Fed the royalty-free right, in perpetuity, to use, reproduce, distribute, alter and/or display them, and the St. Louis Fed will be free to use any ideas, concepts, artwork, inventions, developments, suggestions or techniques embodied in your comments for any purpose whatsoever, with or without attribution, and without compensation to you. You will also waive all moral rights you may have in any comment you submit.
comments powered by Disqus

The St. Louis Fed uses Disqus software for the comment functionality on this blog. You can read the Disqus privacy policy. Disqus uses cookies and third party cookies. To learn more about these cookies and how to disable them, please see this article.

Subscribe to
On the Economy

Get notified when new content is available on our On the Economy blog.

Email Alerts  |  RSS

About the Blog

The St. Louis Fed On the Economy blog features relevant commentary, analysis, research and data from our economists and other St. Louis Fed experts.

Views expressed are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis or of the Federal Reserve System.

Contact Us

For media-related questions, email For all other blog-related questions or comments, email