Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fed's Beige Book: Modest to Moderate expansion, Labor markets "Tighten"

by Bill McBride on 5/31/2017 02:08:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book "This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia based on information collected on or before May 22, 2017."

Most of the twelve Federal Reserve Districts reported that their economies continued to expand at a modest or moderate pace from early April through late May. Boston and Chicago signaled that growth in their Districts had slowed somewhat to a modest pace since the prior Beige Book period, while New York indicated that activity had flattened out. Consumer spending softened with many Districts noting little or no change in nonauto retail sales, while auto sales have edged down from last year's record highs in several Districts; tourism activity has continued to keep pace with the general economy. Meanwhile, the majority of Districts continued to report moderate growth in manufacturing activity and in most nonfinancial service sectors. Construction of new homes and nonresidential structures also continued to grow at modest to moderate rates, as did sales of existing homes; nonresidential leasing picked up a bit. Lending volume trends tended to mirror (and support) the general activity of the economy. Agricultural conditions remained mixed with some regions negatively affected by unusually wet weather. Most energy sectors tended to modestly improve. A majority of Districts reported that firms expressed positive near-term outlooks; however, optimism waned somewhat in a few Districts.
Labor markets continued to tighten, with most Districts citing shortages across a broadening range of occupations and regions. Despite supply constraints impeding the ability of firms to attract and retain qualified workers, most Districts reported that employment continued to grow at a modest to moderate pace. Similarly, most firms across the Districts noted little change to the recent trend of modest to moderate wage growth, although many firms reported offering higher wages to attract workers where shortages were most severe.
emphasis added
And a few excerpts on real estate:
New York: Housing markets across the District have been mixed but, on balance, steady since the last report. New York City's rental market has remained mostly steady, though increased landlord concessions have further lowered effective rents and spurred some pickup in leasing, especially at the high end. In contrast, rents continued to rise across northern New Jersey, the Lower Hudson Valley, southwestern Connecticut and upstate New York.

The sales market for homes has strengthened in northern New Jersey and across upstate New York but has been essentially flat in New York City...

San Franciso: Real estate market activity continued to grow at a strong pace, but activity varied by region. Residential construction activity remained strong in urban centers but slowed to a moderate pace in some rural regions, due in part to especially wet ground conditions in areas of the Mountain West. Permits for single and multi-family units edged up, but contacts noted that construction was somewhat hampered by shortages of available land in some areas. Supply shortages and strong demand continued to fuel rapid home price growth in most parts of the District; contacts in urban centers reported that bids routinely came in significantly above the asking prices. Demand for commercial real estate loans in California remained strong.