Beige Book highlights modest economic growth
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Economic growth was modest in the past several weeks in the Cleveland district of the Federal Reserve, a region that includes Western Pennsylvania and seemed to be performing at an average pace compared to the rest of the country.
Overall, economic activity has expanded in the 12 Federal Reserve districts since previous reports were issued July 18.
Nine districts reported modest-to-moderate growth during the most recent period. All of the districts had bright spots in the real estate sector, while six experienced strength in the tourism industry.
Hiring was modest, and employment grew tepidly. The drought in the Midwest stalled the agricultural sector in three districts.
The mixed data came out Wednesday as part of the Beige Book economic assessment, released 10 times a year based on reports from the 12 Federal Reserve districts.
The Cleveland district experienced slight growth and declines across several sectors, according to the report. There was little net hiring, and the number of job openings declined.
Natural gas production rose in light of increased demand from electric utilities, and coal production is expected to drop in 2012 compared to 2011. Manufacturing output decreased slightly, though it was higher than a year ago. Manufacturing could receive a boost from the growth in the energy sector down the road, though.
Retail sales grew modestly in the Cleveland district -- retailers expect modest growth at best through the third quarter, as consumers are described as being increasingly cautious. Demand for business credit grew slightly.
Reports on the real estate market in the Cleveland district were mixed, though it has improved compared to a year ago, and both residential and nonresidential construction has increased.
Sales of motor vehicles were steady, as was freight transport volume, which had been decreasing since the second quarter.
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, could shed more light on the direction of the nation's economy in a Friday morning speech scheduled for a gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyo. His remarks will likely influence market activity.
The Brookings Institution, in Washington, D.C., also released a report Wednesday, on education and employment across the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. The largest number of open positions in the country were found in computer occupations, according to the study, and in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area in particular, where more than 8,800 jobs were available earlier this year.
Pittsburgh ranked 20th in unemployment, 10th in industry job growth, fifth in growth of housing prices and 32nd in jobs openings as a share of existing jobs, according to the Brookings study.
First Published August 30, 2012 12:00 am