Fed's Beige Book: Modest to Moderate expansion, Tight labor markets
Fed's Beige Book "This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond based on information collected on or before April 10, 2017."
Economic activity increased in each of the twelve Federal Reserve Districts between mid-February and the end of March, with the pace of expansion equally split between modest and moderate. In addition, the pickup was evident to varying degrees across economic sectors. Manufacturing continued to expand at a modest to moderate pace, although growth in freight shipments slowed slightly. Consumer spending varied as reports of stronger light vehicle sales were accompanied by somewhat softer readings in non-auto retail spending. Tourism and travel activity generally picked up. On balance, reports suggested that residential construction growth accelerated somewhat even as growth in home sales slowed, in part due to a lack of inventory. Nonresidential construction remained strong, but became more mixed in some regions; leasing activity generally improved at a more modest pace. More than half of the reports suggested that loan volumes increased, while only one said they were down modestly. Non-financial services generally continued to expand steadily. Energy-related businesses noted improved conditions while agricultural conditions varied.And a few excerpts on real estate:
Employment expanded across the nation and increases ranged from modest to moderate during this period. Labor markets remained tight, and employers in most Districts had more difficulty filling low-skilled positions, although labor demand was stronger for higher skilled workers. Modest wage increases broadened, and reports noted bigger increases for workers with skills that are in short supply. A larger number of firms mentioned higher turnover rates and more difficulty retaining workers. A couple of Districts reported that worker shortages and increased labor costs were restraining growth in some sectors, including manufacturing, transportation, and construction. Businesses generally expected labor demand to increase moderately in the next six months, and looked for modest wage growth.
Boston: Residential real estate markets in the First District continued to struggle with a shortage of inventory. All six First District states as well as the Greater Boston area reported large declines in inventory for both single-family homes and condos from February 2016 to February 2017. ... New York: Housing markets across the District have been mixed but, on balance a bit stronger since the last report, with ongoing slack at the high end of the market. New York City's rental market has been steady to somewhat weaker. Landlord concessions have grown more prevalent in an effort to keep rents and vacancy rates steady. Effective rents (factoring in these concessions) have continued to decline--particularly on larger units and particularly in Manhattan. Elsewhere, rents continued to rise in northern New Jersey but were mostly flat across upstate New York. ... San Franciso: Conditions in real estate markets remained stable, and activity remained strong in most of the District. Demand for residential real estate remained robust in most parts of the District. Overall, contacts reported that construction activity was slowed only by a lack of available land, labor, and materials. Sales of new and existing homes were robust, and inventories remained low, with one contact in Seattle reporting that new property listings remained on the market for only a couple of days.Mostly inventories are low, and rents are soft.