Beige Book: Recovery is creeping along
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The economic recovery appears to be continuing, albeit slowly, according to the latest report from the Federal Reserve.
Over the past several weeks, much of the country reported that retail sales picked up, though in New York, Chicago and Kansas City sales were softening or staying level.
Real estate, the sector credited with helping trigger the Great Recession, is improving, with most regions of the country reporting home prices are steady and even going up.
The data come from the Federal Reserve's so-called Beige Book, a summary of field reports throughout the country on how business is doing in different sectors, such as retail, real estate, manufacturing, banking and transportation. The economic report is issued several times a year, most recently coming out in late August.
In the Cleveland district, which includes Pittsburgh, home builders were mixed on how the market is doing. New construction was about the same as it was this time last year. Sales of existing homes were better, with a tightening of inventory of mid-range homes.
Back-to-school shopping in the Cleveland district was good, although some retailers are saying that people are holding off on shopping until after the election.
Overall, retailers in the region were experiencing growth over last year, but it was in the low to middle single digits, or about 2 percent to 6 percent.
While most of the country reported that manufacturing was improving, locally, the steel industry was flat. There was rising activity for goods sold to construction, energy and transportation companies. Manufacturers reported little change in payrolls or the prices of raw materials, which either stayed the same or went down slightly.
Banks reported more businesses are requesting loans while small businesses reported it was still difficult to obtain financing. Auto loans and home equity lines of credit were up.
In the energy sector, conventional oil and gas drilling was steady with well-head prices for natural gas up. Coal producers said production was down between 10 percent and 50 percent from 2011 because of lower demand from utilities and a stricter regulatory environment.
First Published October 11, 2012 12:17 am