Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Fed's Beige Book: Economic Growth "Modest", Labor Market "Tight"

by Calculated Risk on 9/04/2019 02:03:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book "This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta based on information collected on or before August 23, 2019."

On balance, reports from Federal Reserve Districts suggested that the economy expanded at a modest pace through the end of August. Although concerns regarding tariffs and trade policy uncertainty continued, the majority of businesses remained optimistic about the near-term outlook. Reports on consumer spending were mixed, although auto sales for most Districts grew at a modest pace. Tourism activity since the previous report remained solid in most reporting Districts. On balance, transportation activity softened, which some reporting Districts attributed to slowing global demand and heightened trade tensions. Home sales remained constrained in the majority of Districts due primarily to low inventory levels, and new home construction activity remained flat. Commercial real estate construction and sales activity were steady, while the pace of leasing increased slightly over the prior period. Overall manufacturing activity was down slightly from the previous report. Among reporting Districts, agricultural conditions remained weak as a result of unfavorable weather conditions, low commodity prices, and trade-related uncertainties. Lending volumes grew modestly across several Districts. Reports on activity in the nonfinancial services sector were positive, with reporting Districts noting similar or improved activity from the last report.
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Overall, Districts indicated that employment grew at a modest pace, on par with the previous reporting period. While employment growth varied by industry, some Districts noted manufacturing employment was flat to down. Firms and staffing agencies universally cited tightness across various labor market segments and skill levels, which continued to constrain growth in overall business activity. On balance, Districts reported that the pace of wage growth remained modest to moderate, similar to the previous reporting period. Districts continued to report strong upward pressure on pay for entry-level and low-skill workers, as well as for technology, construction, and some professional services positions. In addition to wage increases, some Districts noted other efforts—such as enhanced benefits offerings, work arrangement flexibility, and signing bonuses—to attract and retain employees.
emphasis added