Federal Reserve reports moderate economic growth

From Beacon Journal staff and wire reports

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WASHINGTON: A strengthening housing recovery and robust auto sales contributed to moderate economic growth across the United States in late February and March, according to a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday.

Growth was moderate or modest in all of the Fed’s 12 banking districts, and it accelerated in two — New York and Dallas — from January and early February.

The Beige Book survey suggested the economy performed better in March than some government data on hiring and consumer spending had indicated. That could mean the economic weakness might have been temporary.

The Fed survey, based on anecdotal reports, found that hiring was unchanged or improved slightly compared with the previous report. And it noted that consumer spending — which drives most of the economy — grew modestly. But the report also said higher taxes and a spike in gas prices had slowed sales.

By contrast, the Labor Department said earlier this month that job growth slowed sharply in March. And retail sales declined in March by the most in nine months, a separate report said last week.

Hiring remained sluggish in Ohio and other parts of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s multistate district, even as business activity expanded modestly over the past six weeks.

The Cleveland Fed said home builders have increased hiring since the start of the year, but other industries were not adding many jobs.

The Cleveland Fed also reported that manufacturing orders and production increased and there was momentum in residential construction.

Retail sales increased, as did sales of new motor vehicles. Most new-vehicle buyers preferred smaller, fuel-efficient cars and compact SUVs.

Output from shale and conventional oil and gas wells held steady.

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