Beige Book report shows weather froze Pittsburgh region's growth

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April's break in winter weather helped to warm up economic activity for most of the country but not in the region that includes Pittsburgh, according to the Federal Reserve Board.

Ten of 12 Federal Reserve districts saw "modest to moderate" growth in economic activity in the most recent Beige Book, a report that outlines economic experiences for the nation's business owners.

However, business owners in the St. Louis district and the Cleveland district -- which encompasses the Pittsburgh region -- reported declines in economic activity since the previous report was released in March.

Mild temperatures helped to increase overall consumer spending and retail sales in the New York district, for example, while the remaining cold snap in the Cleveland district was blamed for hampered consumer spending.

That trend continued in the residential construction sector, which saw moderate to modest growth in Boston, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta districts and declines in Cleveland, St. Louis and Minneapolis districts. Commercial construction strengthened in Kansas City and Dallas districts, expanded in Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis and San Francisco districts and saw a slight decline in the Cleveland district.

"The severe winter weather appears to have negatively impacted business activity to a heightened degree; some producers and service providers are still experiencing lingering effects," read a summary of the Cleveland district's performance.

"Demand for manufactured products grew at a slow rate. Building contractors reported that their pipelines remained active, while field work slowed. Retailers and auto dealers experienced disappointing sales during February and into March.

"In the energy sector, shale gas production stayed at a high level, while coal output trended lower. Freight volume declined. Demand for business and consumer credit moved higher," according to the district summary.

Deborah M. Todd: dtodd@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1652. 


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