Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Fed's Beige Book: "Modest to moderate"expansion, Labor markets "Tight"

by Bill McBride on 9/06/2017 02:57:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book "This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago based on information collected on or before August 28, 2017. The information included in the District reports was primarily collected before Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Gulf Coast. However, some Districts received preliminary information from business contacts regarding the impact of the storm, which is compiled in a special paragraph in the national summary. "

Economic activity expanded at a modest to moderate pace across all twelve Federal Reserve Districts in July and August. Consumer spending increased in most Districts, with gains reported for nonauto retail sales and tourism, but mixed results for vehicle sales. Capital spending also increased in several Districts. Manufacturing activity expanded modestly on balance. That said, reports were mixed regarding auto production, and contacts in many Districts expressed concerns about a prolonged slowdown in the auto industry. Both residential and commercial construction increased slightly overall. Low inventories of homes for sale continued to weigh on residential real estate activity across the country, while commercial real estate activity increased slightly. Activity in the energy and natural resources sector was generally positive prior to shutdowns arising from Hurricane Harvey. Agricultural conditions were mixed overall, with drought conditions reported in multiple Districts. Business and consumer loan demand grew at a modest pace in most Districts, with a number of banks reporting rising competition from both other banks and non-bank lenders.
...
Employment growth slowed some on balance, ranging from a slight to a modest rate in most Districts. Labor markets were widely characterized as tight. There were reports of worker shortages in numerous industries, most notably in manufacturing and construction. Firms in the Atlanta, St. Louis, and Minneapolis Districts said that they had turned down business because they could not find the necessary workers. Many Districts indicated that businesses were having difficulty filling openings at all skill levels. In spite of the tight labor market, the majority of Districts reported limited wage pressures and modest to moderate wage growth. That said, there were reports from firms in the Dallas and San Francisco Districts that labor shortages were pushing up wages.
emphasis added
And on Hurricane Harvey:
Hurricane Harvey created broad disruptions to economic activity along the Gulf Coast in the Dallas and Atlanta Districts, although it was too soon to gauge the full extent of the impact. Many firms and organizations in the affected areas closed due to flooding. A fifth of the oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico was offline, and many onshore producers in the Eagle Ford region temporarily stopped production. Harvey also affected fuel and petrochemical production, forcing fifteen refineries in the region to shut down temporarily and several others to operate at reduced capacity. Some areas experienced gasoline shortages, and supply was expected to remain tight in the Southeastern United States because of pipeline disruptions. Contacts in the Richmond District indicated that spot freight prices jumped after the storm, as freight was being redirected around the country. The Port of Charleston expected increased volumes in coming weeks as freight traffic is routed away from the Port of Houston.