Snapshots from the Beige Book
Eight times a year, each of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its district through reports from Reserve Bank and branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. To compile our Reserve Bank's Beige Book, the Atlanta Fed utilizes its Regional Economic Information Network (REIN). Results are published on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors website.
An overall national summary is prepared as well. Much attention is paid to the first sentences of the national summary and each Bank's report because they give an overall take on economic conditions.
The lead sentence of the national summary for the April 11 report reads:
"Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that the economy continued to expand at a modest to moderate pace from mid-February through late March."
The opening sentence from the Sixth District's section was almost identical:
"Reports from Sixth District business contacts indicated that the pace of economic activity expanded at a moderate pace in late February through March."
The main take-away from this comparison is that businesses in the Southeast—and, for the most part, the rest of the country—are still experiencing positive growth. The pace may not be as fast as we would like, but it is still expanding.
Below are sector overviews from the Sixth District's Beige Book which support the idea that conditions in most sectors are recovering, albeit slowly:
- Consumer Spending and Tourism: Retailers mostly indicated sales were growing at a modest pace and auto sales remained strong. Leisure and hospitality businesses reported robust activity in all segments except cruise lines.
- Real Estate and Construction: Homebuilders and brokers experienced improvements in sales of new and existing homes, and multifamily construction remained strong. General contractors noted slow improvements in commercial construction conditions.
- Manufacturing and Transportation: Manufacturers and transportation contacts reported positive production trends, on balance.
- Banking and Finance: Loan demand remained relatively weak, according to community bank contacts.
- Employment: The share of firms reporting they were hiring continued to increase, although many contacts continued to express a preference for part-time or temporary contract workers.
- Prices: Most contacts continued to report having relatively little pricing power. However, the proportion of firms saying they were successful in their attempts to pass on price increases rose since the last report.
- Energy: Investment in transportation infrastructure for oil and natural gas continued to increase.
- Agriculture: Contacts continued to report concerns regarding available labor supplies in Georgia and Alabama, attributing this concern to the tougher immigration laws.
By Shalini Patel, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed's research department
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