Economy Still Far below Levels Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Beige Book is a Federal Reserve System publication about current economic conditions across the 12 Federal Reserve Districts.
- Economic activity increased among most Districts, but gains were generally modest and activity remained well below levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Consumer spending continued to pick up, sparked by strong vehicle sales and some improvements in tourism and retail sectors. But many Districts noted a slowing pace of growth in these areas, and total spending was still far below pre-pandemic levels.
- Commercial construction was down widely, and commercial real estate remained in contraction.
- Residential construction was a bright spot, showing growth and resilience in many Districts. Residential real estate sales were also notably higher, with prices continuing to rise along with demand and a shortage of inventory.
- Overall loan demand increased slightly, led by solid residential mortgage activity.
- Agricultural conditions continued to suffer from low prices, and energy activity was subdued at low levels, with little expectation of near-term improvement for either sector.
- Employment increased overall among Districts, with gains in manufacturing cited most often. However, some Districts also reported slowing job growth and increased hiring volatility, particularly in service industries, with rising instances of furloughed workers being laid off permanently as demand remained soft.
- Wages were flat to slightly higher in most Districts, with greater pressure cited among lower-paying positions. Some firms also rescinded previous pay cuts. Others, however, have looked to roll back hazard pay for high-exposure jobs, though some have chosen not to do so for staff morale and recruitment purposes.
The 32-page Beige Book mostly repeats those themes across each of the Fed's 12 regions with some variances.
The reports are little more than the regional reports that come out through the month: Philly Fed Report, Dallas Fed Report, Empire State Manufacturing Report, etc.
Basically is a compilation of what we already know plus some service sector anecdotes.
Conditions Mirror the Obvious
Conditions mirror the obvious problems and the one known major plus, residential real estate.
Housing is fueled by cheap money from the Fed even as most of the rest of the economy suffers from weak and choppy growth.