Reports of gains outnumbered declines in the latest Federal Reserve Beige Book economic report, but most of those gains were qualified as “small or scattered.” Residential real estate and manufacturing led the gains, continuing the pattern of improvement that began this summer.
A pickup in sales of low- to middle-priced houses drove most Districts to report improved housing market conditions in recent weeks. But residential construction activity and commercial real estate remained low, with commercial real estate being reported as one of the weakest sectors.
Four Districts – New York, Richmond, Minneapolis and Kansas City – reported solid gains in manufacturing activity, while Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco reporting slight-to-moderate increases. However, the Fed noted a discrepancy in growth rates across different industries. For example, Dallas reported overall manufacturing demand as flat, but with gains in the high-tech, food and petrochemical industries.
Labor market conditions remain weak or mixed across the districts, with improvements limited to contract and temporary employment in Dallas and mixed signals from many other Districts.