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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Fed's Beige Book: "Economic activity expanded slightly"

by Calculated Risk on 4/17/2024 02:00:00 PM

Fed's Beige Book

Overall economic activity expanded slightly, on balance, since late February. Ten out of twelve Districts experienced either slight or modest economic growth—up from eight in the previous report, while the other two reported no changes in activity. Consumer spending barely increased overall, but reports were quite mixed across Districts and spending categories. Several reports mentioned weakness in discretionary spending, as consumers' price sensitivity remained elevated. Auto spending was buoyed notably in some Districts by improved inventories and dealer incentives, but sales remained sluggish in other Districts. Tourism activity increased modestly, on average, but reports varied widely. Manufacturing activity declined slightly, as only three Districts reported growth in that sector. Contacts reported slight increases in nonfinancial services activity, on average, and bank lending was roughly flat overall. Residential construction increased a little, on average, and home sales strengthened in most Districts. In contrast, nonresidential construction was flat, and commercial real estate leasing fell slightly. The economic outlook among contacts was cautiously optimistic, on balance.

Labor Markets

Employment rose at a slight pace overall, with nine Districts reporting very slow to modest increases, and the remaining three Districts reporting no changes in employment. Most Districts noted increases in labor supply and in the quality of job applicants. Several Districts reported improved retention of employees, and others pointed to staff reductions at some firms. Despite the improvements in labor supply, many Districts described persistent shortages of qualified applicants for certain positions, including machinists, trades workers, and hospitality workers. Wages grew at a moderate pace in eight Districts, with the remaining four noting only slight to modest wage increases. Multiple Districts said that annual wage growth rates had recently returned to their historical averages. On balance, contacts expected that labor demand and supply would remain relatively stable, with modest further job gains and continued moderation of wage growth back to pre-pandemic levels.


Price increases were modest, on average, running at about the same pace as in the last report. Disruptions in the Red Sea and the collapse of Baltimore's Key Bridge caused some shipping delays but so far did not lead to widespread price increases.
emphasis added