Federal Reserve and Inflation Alert! Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District. ‘Beige Book’ notes Firms in most Districts expected inflationary pressures to continue over the coming months.

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by Dismal-Jellyfish

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Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District

Commonly known as the Beige Book, this report is published eight times per year. Each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. The Beige Book summarizes this information by District and sector.

Overall Economic Activity

Economic activity expanded at a moderate pace since mid-February. Several Districts reported moderate employment gains despite hiring and retention challenges in the labor market. Consumer spending accelerated among retail and non-financial service firms, as COVID-19 cases tapered across the country. Manufacturing activity was solid overall across most Districts, but supply chain backlogs, labor market tightness, and elevated input costs continued to pose challenges on firms’ abilities to meet demand. Vehicle sales remained largely constrained by low inventories. Commercial real estate activity accelerated modestly as office occupancy and retail activity increased. Districts’ contacts reported continued strong demand for residential real estate but limited supply. Agricultural conditions were mixed across regions. Farmers were supported by surging crop prices, but drought conditions were a challenge in some Districts and increasing input costs were squeezing producer margins across the nation. Outlooks for future growth were clouded by the uncertainty created by recent geopolitical developments and rising prices.

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Labor Markets

Employment increased at a moderate pace. Demand for workers continued to be strong across most Districts and industry sectors. But hiring was held back by the overall lack of available workers, though several Districts reported signs of modest improvement in worker availability. Many firms reported significant turnover as workers left for higher wages and more flexible job schedules. Persistent labor demand continued to fuel strong wage growth, particularly for footloose workers willing to change jobs. Firms reported that inflationary pressures were also contributing to higher wages, and that higher wages were doing little to alleviate widespread job vacancies. But some contacts reported early signs that the strong pace of wage growth had begun to slow.

Prices

Inflationary pressures remained strong since the last report, with firms continuing to pass swiftly rising input costs through to customers. Contacts across Districts, particularly those in manufacturing, noted steep increases in raw materials, transportation, and labor costs. In multiple Districts, contacts reported spikes in prices for energy, metals, and agricultural commodities following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and several noted that COVID-19 lockdowns in China had worsened supply chain disruptions. A few reports noted that input suppliers were making use of more flexible contract terms or only honoring price quotes for 24 hours. Strong demand generally allowed firms to pass through input cost increases to customers, for example, via fuel surcharges for freight and airline fares. However, contacts in a few Districts noted negative sales impacts from rising prices. Firms in most Districts expected inflationary pressures to continue over the coming months.

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