Beige Book: Regional activity steady
The Federal Reserve released the latest Beige Book on November 30. The Beige Book is published eight times per year. In it, each Federal Reserve Bank reports anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its district.
Following are highlights of the Atlanta Fed's contribution to the November 30 report:
Overall, our report was little changed from the previous Beige Book, which was released October 19. We wrote that "Sixth District business contacts described the economy as expanding at a modest pace in October through mid-November," which is almost exactly what we reported October 19. In short, our contacts have been rather consistent in their overall assessment of business conditions—activity is positive, but not all that strong. They remain very cautious as well, with very few expressing outright optimism about future demand.
We also wrote that our region's retailers "noted sluggish sales growth compared with September." Based on the better-than-expected start to the holiday shopping season, consumers may have been keeping their powder dry in October and early November. While it's too early to tell if the robust Black Friday results signal what's in store for December sales, we will be following up with retailers to determine overall holiday sales trends. In addition, despite lackluster reports from retail in general, we noted "auto dealers continued to experience robust sales" and that "tourism activity remained a bright spot for most of the District."
Earlier this week, SouthPoint commented on the October employment report for states in the region, pointing out that the September and October data, when taken together, painted an improving picture for the region's labor markets. In our November Beige Book, we wrote that "reports from businesses suggest that hiring plans continue to be subdued and remain weighted toward hiring temporary or part-time labor." Our current read is that although hiring plans may be restrained, such plans are perhaps becoming more widespread.
The bottom line is that our Beige Book report on regional economic activity meshes with the larger view of the economy, reflected by Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart's most recent speech where he summarized his outlook by saying that "the U.S. economy will continue to grow at a moderate pace in 2012. Unemployment will come down slowly."
By Mike Chriszt, an assistant vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department
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