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Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Fed's Beige Book: "The labor market becoming less tight ... increases to the labor supply"

by Calculated Risk on 4/19/2023 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 April 10, 2023."

Overall economic activity was little changed in recent weeks. Nine Districts reported either no change or only a slight change in activity this period while three indicated modest growth. Expectations for future growth were mostly unchanged as well; however, two Districts saw outlooks deteriorate. Consumer spending was generally seen as flat to down slightly amid continued reports of moderate price growth. Auto sales remained steady overall, with only a couple of Districts reporting improved sales and inventory levels. Travel and tourism picked up across much of the country this period. Manufacturing activity was widely reported as flat or down even as supply chains continued to improve. Transportation and freight volumes were also flat to down, according to several Districts. On balance, residential real estate sales and new construction activity softened modestly. Nonresidential construction was little changed while sales and leasing activity was generally flat to down. Lending volumes and loan demand generally declined across consumer and business loan types. Several Districts noted that banks tightened lending standards amid increased uncertainty and concerns about liquidity. The majority of Districts reported steady to increasing demand and sales for nonfinancial services. Agriculture conditions were mostly unchanged in recent weeks while some softening was reported in energy markets.

Employment growth moderated somewhat this period as several Districts reported a slower pace of growth than in recent Beige Book reports. A small number of firms reported mass layoffs, and those were centered at a subset of the largest companies. Some other firms opted to allow for natural attrition to occur, and to hire only for critically important roles. Contacts reported the labor market becoming less tight as several Districts noted increases to the labor supply. Additionally, firms benefited from better employee retention, which allowed them to hire for open roles while not constantly trying to back-fill positions. Wages have shown some moderation but remain elevated. Several Districts reported declining needs for off-cycle wage increases compared to last year.
emphasis added