Originally created 06/17/04

Regional economic survey shows economy is improving



Excerpts from the Federal Reserve's survey of current economic conditions, according to its 12 regional bank districts. It was released Wednesday:

ATLANTA: "Economic growth ... remained robust in April and May. Merchants reported that sales were above year-ago levels. ... Residential housing sales and construction remained at high levels. ... Factory activity was mixed, but truck and rail shipments strengthened. ... Reports from the hospitality and tourism industry were positive. ... The hiring picture continued to improve overall. ... Business and consumers noted continued escalating prices for fuel, building materials and metals."

BOSTON: "Business activity continues to gain strength. ... Retailers and manufacturers report growth in sales and orders. Demand for software and information technology services as well as temp workers is also rising. Commercial real estate markets may be stabilizing. With some important exceptions including energy and steel, input prices are mostly stable. Wage increases are returning to the 2 percent to 5 percent range."

NEW YORK: "Economy has shown persistent strength in recent weeks. Prices of finished consumer goods remain relatively stable. ... The labor market has continued to improve. ... Retailers report that sales were, again, ahead of plan in May. ... Recent business surveys suggest ongoing growth in manufacturing. ... The housing market remains robust. ... Manhattan's office market was steady to firmer in May. Tourism-related industries in New York City again turned in strong results."

PHILADELPHIA: "Economic activity ... continued to expand. ... Manufacturers reported increases in orders and shipments. ... Retailers indicated that sales of general merchandise rose. ... Auto and light truck sales slowed a bit from April. ... Home sales continued to run at a brisk pace, but commercial real-estate market remained soft."

CLEVELAND: "The economic environment ... remained strong. ... In the manufacturing sector, increases in production continued to be broadbased, something that could not be said before the beginning of this year. Retailers reported steady conditions in recent weeks as well. ... Many firms reported that their hiring is likely to be limited for the remainder of this year."

RICHMOND: "The pace of expansion of the Fifth District's economy quickened in the weeks since our last report, with evidence of growth broadening into almost all sectors. Retailers and services firms reported stronger revenue growth in April and May and manufacturing said that factory output expanded further. Although hiring gains were limited at most district retailers and services firms ... manufacturers expanded their payrolls more rapidly."

CHICAGO: "Economy expanded solidly in late April and May, due in part to a stronger, broader-based advance in manufacturing. Consumer and business spending increased and hiring picked up. Overall construction and real-estate activity moved slightly higher, reflecting some improvement on the nonresidential side. Agriculture conditions ... were mixed, as excess precipitation followed a quick start to the planting season."

ST. LOUIS: "Business conditions ... continued to improve ... as reports of plant openings and expansions in manufacturing and services continued to increase. Retail and auto sales increased in April and May over year-earlier levels. Residential real-estate activity picked up, while commercial real-estate markets remained soft. "

MINNEAPOLIS: "The economy ... grew steadily. ... Growth was noted in real estate, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, energy and consumer spending. District employment relative to last year picked up considerably, while wage increases were moderate. Some signs of price acceleration were noted, including significant increases in tuition. ..."

KANSAS CITY: "Economy continued to expand in late April and May. Retail sales rose moderately, factory activity increased further, and labor markets showed additional improvements. Also, housing and energy activity continued to rise from high levels and agricultural conditions were generally solid. Wage pressures were still muted and retail price increases were modest, but many manufacturers were raising their output prices."

DALLAS: "Economic activity continued to expand from mid-April to early June. Manufacturing activity was up. ... Demand for business services is increasing but remains slower than contacts expected. Retail sales were mixed. Construction and real-estate markets strengthened, while financial services activity continued to improve. Energy activity remains relatively strong but has responded little to the recent spike in prices. Agricultural conditions continue to be favorable."

SAN FRANCISCO: "Economic activity expanded at a sold pace in most areas. ... Contacts noted further increases in the prices of gasoline and other commodities, but the pace of overall price inflation remained modest. Hiring activity picked up in many areas. ... Sales of automobiles, retail merchandise and most types of services were quite strong, and contacts reported robust demand in the manufacturing sector. Sales of district agricultural and resource products were solid. ... Activity remained vigorous in residential real-estate markets."