The Federal Reserve has released the latest "Beige Book" survey of economic conditions around the country, compiled by staff of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks (

Here are excerpts from the national summary. Click on the link above to see links to the detailed regional reports.

National Summary

District reports suggest that the economy expanded modestly in recent weeks, with an uneven performance across some sectors. Boston, New York, Atlanta, and Dallas noted some tapering off in economic growth, while Cleveland and St. Louis indicated some improvement. Reports from the rest of the districts point to continued moderate growth. Overall, prices of finished goods and services remained stable, though there were scattered reports of price pressures.

Residential real estate and construction activity was widely described as strong, though some softness was reported in the rental segment. In contrast, commercial real estate was almost universally described as weak, though stable in some cases.

Real Estate and Construction

Residential real estate continued to show strength in virtually all districts, but the commercial real estate sector continued to struggle. An overwhelming majority of districts described the housing market as robust, with sturdy gains in sales activity and varying degrees of price appreciation. The weakest report from this sector came from Dallas, where housing markets were said to be unchanged. Despite the overall strength, some weakness was noted at the upper end of the market in Richmond, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco. Declining equity markets were cited as one cause of this relative weakness, though New York noted that there has been no discernible effect thus far. In contrast, a number of districts indicated that declining stock prices have actually boosted the perceived attractiveness of real estate as an investment. Apartment rental markets were reported to have softened in Richmond, Minneapolis, and San Francisco, but to have stabilized in New York.

Residential construction activity was mixed but generally strong. Strong or increasing activity was reported in Atlanta, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City and San Francisco. Shortages of developable land were said to be inhibiting construction activity and driving up prices in the Boston and Chicago districts.

Commercial real estate markets remained weak in most areas, with increasingly slack conditions noted in New York, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco. However, Cleveland noted an up-tick in conditions, though from low levels. Despite widespread weakness in office markets, Richmond noted some scattered signs of strength in the market for retail and warehouse space. Commercial construction activity continued to be sluggish in most areas.


Manufacturing activity was generally reported to have improved modestly. While none of the districts reported a general decline, many noted that some industries were expanding moderately while others were continuing to struggle. Vehicle assemblies and parts production were reported as expanding by Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Boston and Atlanta, although Philadelphia reported some slippage in transportation equipment orders. The semiconductor industry has continued to improve according to Dallas, San Francisco and Boston.

Production of construction-related materials, primarily residential, was still displaying strength in the Chicago district, generally up according to Dallas, brisk as reported by Philadelphia and relatively strong in the Atlanta district.

Labor Markets, Wages, Prices

Labor markets were generally reported as subdued, with little or no upward pressure on wages. There were spotty reports of increased hiring in particular occupations, such as engineers, skilled nurses, skilled construction workers and mortgage processors.

Prices for most goods and services were steady, with the widely noted exceptions of insurance (particularly health insurance), building materials (particularly lumber), steel, plastics and paper. Prices of other inputs, as well as selling prices, remained flat or declined, especially in manufacturing, according to nearly all districts. Chicago reported a firming of land prices for residential construction.