US Federal Reserve

Economy Continued to Expand From November Through December, Outlook Remains `Optimistic,’ Fed Says

3:51 PM, Mar 7, 2018 — The economy continued to expand from late November through the end of 2017 as 11 of the Fed’s 12 districts reporting modest to moderate gains and the 12th — the Dallas district — recording a “robust” increase, according to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book released on Wednesday.

“The outlook for 2018 remains optimistic for a majority of contacts across the country,” the Fed said. “Most districts reported that non-auto retail sales expanded since the last report and that auto sales were mixed. Some retailers highlighted that holiday sales were higher than expected. Residential real estate activity remained constrained across the country.”

Home sales were constrained by limited inventories, and non-residential activity continue to experience slight growth. Manufacturers also reported modest growth in overall business conditions, the Beige Book said.

Some manufacturers raised capital expenditures in the reporting period, and growth was noted in transportation activity, the Fed said. Loan volumes were steady, agricultural conditions were mixed and energy respondents described a slight uptick in activity.

Employment grew at a modest pace since the prior report with most districts citing tightness in labor markets and challenges finding qualified workers that constrained growth.

“Several districts noted elevated demand for manufacturing and construction labor,” the Fed said. “Most districts said that wages increased at a modest pace. A few districts observed that firms were raising wages in a broader range of industries and positions since the previous report. Some districts reported that firms expect wages to increase in the months ahead.”

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