Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Fed's Beige Book: Economic Growth "modest to moderate", Labor Market "Tight"

by Bill McBride on 1/16/2019 02:03:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book "This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago based on information collected on or before January 7, 2019. "

Economic activity increased in most of the U.S., with eight of twelve Federal Reserve Districts reporting modest to moderate growth. Nonauto retail sales grew modestly, as several Districts reported more holiday traffic compared with last year. Auto sales were flat on balance. The majority of Districts indicated that manufacturing expanded, but that growth had slowed, particularly in the auto and energy sectors. New home construction and existing home sales were little changed, with several Districts reporting that sales were limited by rising prices and low inventory. Commercial real estate activity was also little changed on balance. Most Districts reported modest to moderate growth in activity in the nonfinancial services sector, though a few Districts noted that growth there had slowed. The energy sector expanded at a slower pace, and lower energy prices contributed to a pullback in the industry's capital spending expectations. The agriculture sector struggled as prices generally remained low despite recent increases. Overall, lending volumes grew modestly, though a few Districts noted that growth had slowed. Outlooks generally remained positive, but many Districts reported that contacts had become less optimistic in response to increased financial market volatility, rising short-term interest rates, falling energy prices, and elevated trade and political uncertainty.
...
Employment increased in most of the country, with a plurality of Districts reporting modest growth. All Districts noted that labor markets were tight and that firms were struggling to find workers at any skill level.
emphasis added