The U.S. Federal Reserve said Wednesday most of the country was experiencing
slight to modest economic expansion from late February to early April.
The economic assessment known as the Beige Book for the color of its cover is billed as a summary of current economic conditions. But Fed pronouncements are read with such sober aplomb that even a few weeks out of date can make the report appear to be out of sync.
The March jobs report released April 5, for example, showed the country added a surprisingly low 88,000 jobs in the month while the unemployment rate dropped from 7.7 percent to 7.6 percent. Economists said it was a clear indication that the rate dropped because people gave up looking for work rather than found jobs.
The Beige Book said "employment conditions remain unchanged or improved somewhat and reports of hiring were most prevalent in the manufacturing, residential construction, information technology and professional services sectors."
Wage pressure remains subdued, the Fed said, except in various niche enterprises where there are labor shortages. The Fed also noted several districts experienced "robust demand for workers tied to the residential construction sector, including Philadelphia, Cleveland, Dallas and San Francisco."
The Fed noted home sales rising "in most districts," with sales "strong" in the districts of Atlanta and Dallas and low inventories restricting sales in Richmond and Boston.
"The Richmond district noted low inventories were pushing up contracts to well above listing prices, and the Boston and New York Districts said multiple bids on properties have become more common."
The Fed also said modest improvements were noted in manufacturing, loan demand, demand for non-financial services, tourism and retail spending "in most districts."
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