Economic activity expanded across most regions and sectors from early January through mid-February, according to the latest issue of the Beige Book, which surveys conditions in each of the 12 Federal Reserve districts. Six districts, including the St. Louis District,1 reported that their local economies expanded at moderate paces.
Residential real estate conditions were mixed across districts. Home sales and prices increased in most districts, while construction activity was mixed due to severe weather in some areas. Commercial real estate conditions were stable or improving in most districts.
Home sales increased in the St. Louis District on a year-over-year basis, while commercial and industrial real estate market conditions were mixed. Single-family housing permits increased in the majority of the District in December compared with the same period one year prior.
Employment levels grew or remained stable in most districts and across a variety of sectors. Contacts in several districts noted strong labor demand and challenges filling a variety of skilled positions. Wage pressures were moderate across most districts, but some contacts reported increased wages to attract skilled workers for hard-to-fill positions.
In the past three months, wages in the St. Louis District grew moderately while employment and prices charged to consumers grew modestly compared with the same period one year prior.
Most districts reported an increase in overall consumer spending. Automobile sales were up in most districts as well.
Retail contacts in the St. Louis District said sales during the first two months of 2015 have stayed the same or increased relative to a year ago. Reports from auto dealers were also generally positive.
1 The St. Louis Fed District includes all of Arkansas and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.