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Fed’s Beige Book: “Economic activity grew at a modest to moderate pace”

Fed’s Beige Book “This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago based on information collected on or before November 19, 2021.”
Economic activity grew at a modest to moderate pace in most Federal Reserve Districts during October and early November. Several Districts noted that despite strong demand, growth was constrained by supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. Consumer spending increased modestly; low inventories held back sales of some items, notably light vehicles. Leisure and hospitality activity picked up in most Districts as the spread of the Delta variant ebbed in many areas. Construction activity generally increased but was held back by scarce materials and labor. Nonresidential real estate activity increased widely, while residential real estate activity grew in some Districts but declined in others. Manufacturing growth was solid across Districts, though materials and labor shortages limited expansion. High freight volumes continued to strain distribution systems. Energy activity was generally higher, growth in professional and business services varied widely, and demand for education and health services was largely unchanged. Loan demand increased in almost all Districts, though some reported declines in residential mortgages. Agriculture saw improved financial conditions overall and rising land values. The outlook for overall activity remained positive in most Districts, but some noted uncertainty about when supply chain and labor supply challenges would ease.

Employment growth ranged from modest to strong across Federal Reserve Districts. Contacts reported robust demand for labor but persistent difficulty in hiring and retaining employees. Leisure and hospitality and manufacturing contacts reported an uptick in employment, but many were still limiting operating hours due to a lack of workers. Contacts in several other sectors also noted labor-related constraints on meeting demand. Childcare, retirements, and COVID safety concerns were widely cited as sources that limited labor supply. Many Districts noted concerns that the federal vaccination mandate could exacerbate existing hiring difficulties. Nearly all Districts reported robust wage growth. Hiring struggles and elevated turnover rates led businesses to raise wages and offer other incentives, such as bonuses and more flexible working arrangements.
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