Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Fed's Beige Book: "Economic activity increased in almost all Districts, but remained well below where it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic."

by Calculated Risk on 7/15/2020 02:08:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book "This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago based on information collected on or before July 6, 2020. "

Economic activity increased in almost all Districts, but remained well below where it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumer spending picked up as many nonessential businesses were allowed to reopen. Retail sales rose in all Districts, led by a rebound in vehicle sales and sustained growth in the food and beverage and home improvement sectors. Leisure and hospitality spending improved, but was far below year-ago levels. Most Districts reported that manufacturing activity moved up, but from a very low level. Demand for professional and business services increased in most Districts, but was still weak. Transportation activity rose overall on higher truck and air cargo volumes. Construction remained subdued, but picked up in some Districts. Home sales increased moderately, but commercial real estate activity stayed at a low level. Financial conditions in the agriculture sector continued to be poor, while energy sector activity fell further because of limited demand and oversupply. Loan demand was flat outside of some Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) activity and increased residential mortgages. The PPP and loan deferrals by private lenders reportedly provided many firms with sufficient liquidity for the near term. Outlooks remained highly uncertain, as contacts grappled with how long the COVID-19 pandemic would continue and the magnitude of its economic implications.
...
Employment increased on net in almost all Districts as many businesses reopened or ramped up activity. Districts highlighted gains in the retail and leisure and hospitality sectors. However, payrolls in all Districts were well below pre-pandemic levels. Job turnover rates remained high, with contacts across Districts reporting new layoffs. Contacts in nearly every District noted difficulty in bringing back workers because of health and safety concerns, childcare needs, and generous unemployment insurance benefits. Many contacts who have been retaining workers with help from the PPP said that going forward, the strength of demand would determine whether they can avoid layoffs.
emphasis added
CR Note: This information was on or before July 6th, and it appears activity has slowed recently.