During weeks when the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book is released, the On the Economy blog features a post based on the book on Wednesday in lieu of the regularly scheduled Thursday post.
Economic activity expanded in several Federal Reserve districts, according to the most recent Beige Book. The Richmond and San Francisco districts reported moderate growth, while the Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis districts reported modest growth. The Philadelphia District had slight growth. However, the St. Louis District1 described economic conditions as mixed.
All districts except New York and Kansas City reported that residential real estate sales were up. Residential construction strengthened across all districts except Philadelphia and Kansas City. Nonresidential real estate sales and leasing growth ranged from flat to strong.
The St. Louis District was one of four to report strong growth in residential real estate sales. It was also one of eight to report low residential real estate inventories.
Labor market conditions continued to strengthen, with most districts reporting modest labor market growth. Two districts—Atlanta and Dallas—reported mixed conditions. Several districts, including the St. Louis District, reported difficulty in finding skilled workers, especially in information technology, engineering, specialty healthcare, construction, manufacturing and transportation.
Wages generally increased across the nation, with most districts experiencing slight to strong wage growth. Three districts—Kansas City, Richmond and Atlanta—reported flat wage growth. The St. Louis District reported strong wage growth, with 56 percent of contacts reporting that wages were above year-ago levels. This was the highest percentage in two years.
Consumer spending increased in most districts. Six districts reported retail sales growth, ranging from moderate to slight growth. Auto sales generally improved, but conditions varied across the country. Three districts reported strong auto sales, while three more cited improvement. However, three others, including the St. Louis District, reported that auto sales declined and were below year-ago levels.
1 The St. Louis District includes all of Arkansas and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.