Beige Book tells story of nation in slow recovery

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The Federal Reserve's "Commentary on Current Economic Conditions" does not report specifically on wealthy New Yorkers, but all indications are that they are doing quite well while the rest of the economy continues to chug along in low gear.

In the report, known as the Beige Book, the Federal Reserve noted that sales for high-end brands of cars were "especially robust" in New York, ticket sales on Broadway have picked up and in the New York real estate market, "bidding wars are common for desirable properties."

Generally, the nation's economy is still growing at a "modest to moderate pace": It's not collapsing, like it did in 2008, but there is no boom in the recovery, either.

According to the research compiled by Federal Reserve investigators, business activity expanded at a moderate rate in eight of the 12 districts, including the Cleveland district that includes Pittsburgh. Of the remaining four -- Boston, Atlanta and San Francisco -- saw modest growth, slightly slower than in Cleveland, while Chicago reported that activity had picked up.

In the local federal district, "hiring was sluggish across industry sectors." Workers weren't seeing much in the way of raises as "wage pressures remained contained."

While manufacturers in the region said business was expanding moderately, steel producers and service centers said their shipping volumes were stable or fell below the levels they had expected.

The Fed reported that some suppliers and assembly lines for motor vehicles expressed a need to expand capacity to meet demand. There was also a report that small manufacturers said they had been unable to hire skilled workers, though they did not raise wages to pull in more skilled workers. In real estate, new homes sales have stabilized. Builders are not seeing the strong growth of earlier in the year, but they aren't reporting a drop-off.

Retailers in the Cleveland district said they were disappointed with their June and July sales.

"They cited consumers being strapped for money and unseasonable cool weather as factors that held down spending," the Federal Reserve reported, though sales of new motor vehicles were running ahead of last year with buyers picking up smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

businessnews

Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1699.


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