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Economy

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Economy growing moderately, survey says

– The U.S. economy grew throughout the country from late May through early July, bolstered by the housing recovery, consumers and more factory output.

A Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday showed that 11 of the Fed banking districts reported “modest to moderate” growth, while Dallas reported “strong” growth for the second straight survey.

Housing construction and home prices improved, while consumer spending increased in most districts, fueled by rising car and truck sales. The housing recovery is also driving more production of lumber, materials and construction equipment.

The report says hiring held steady or increased in most districts. But employers in some districts were reluctant to hire permanent or full-time workers.

Five districts reported strong auto sales, up from just three in the previous report. Retail sales rose in nearly all districts except for New York.

The Beige Book survey is based on anecdotal reports from businesses. The latest report painted an optimistic picture of an economy growing at a steady pace. Job gains have picked up this year, bolstering incomes and enabling consumers to spend more.

Employers have added an average of 202,000 jobs a month this year, up from about 180,000 a month in the previous six months.

Still, growth has been weak. Most economists think growth slowed in the April-June quarter to an annual rate of 1 percent or less, down from a tepid 1.8 percent rate at the start of the year. That would mark the third straight quarter of growth below 2 percent.

Many economists are hopeful that growth will rebound in the second half of the year.

Recent reports, however, have painted more of a mixed picture. Americans bought more cars, clothes and furniture in June, but cut back retail spending almost everywhere else. Excluding volatile purchases of autos, gas and building materials, retail sales rose at the slowest pace since January.

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