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Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Fed's Beige Book: Economic Actvity Expanded "modest to moderate rate", Coronavirus Impacting Travel

by Calculated Risk on 3/04/2020 02:05:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book "This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond based on information collected on or before February 24th, 2020."

Economic activity expanded at a modest to moderate rate over the past several weeks, according to the majority of Federal Reserve Districts. The St. Louis and Kansas City Districts, however, reported no change during this period. Consumer spending generally picked up, but growth was uneven across the nation, including mixed reports of auto sales. Overall, growth in tourism was flat to modest. There were indications that the coronavirus was negatively impacting travel and tourism in the U.S. Manufacturing activity expanded in most parts of the country; however, some supply chain delays were reported as a result of the coronavirus and several Districts said that producers feared further disruptions in the coming weeks. Transportation activity was generally flat to up slightly aside from some Mid-Atlantic ports that saw strong volume growth. U.S. nonfinancial services firms generally experienced mild to moderate growth. Overall loan growth was flat to up modestly, according to most Districts; notable exceptions were St. Louis, New York, and Kansas City, where declines were reported. On the whole, residential home sales picked up modestly. Nonresidential real estate sales and leasing activity varied across Districts. Agricultural conditions were little changed in recent weeks while some declines in natural resource extraction were reported. Outlooks for the near-term were mostly for modest growth with the coronavirus and the upcoming presidential election cited as potential risks.
Employment increased at a slight to moderate pace, overall, with hiring constrained by a tight labor market. Insufficient labor lowered growth for many firms and led to delays in construction projects. Several employers changed from temporary to permanent workers in order to attract talent, and firms made efforts to retain workers such as keeping seasonal workers on staff in the off-season. While employment grew across most sectors, manufacturers, retailers, and transportation companies reported lower demand for labor in some Districts. Wages grew at a modest to moderate rate in most Districts, similar to last period, and contacts expected wage growth to continue in this range. Firms reported that the tight labor market and minimum wage increases were putting upward pressure on wages. Companies also spent more on benefits, as the cost of benefits rose and as employers expanded benefits to attract and retain workers.
emphasis added