While labor markets generally remained weak, some hiring activity was evident, particularly for temporary staff. Wage pressures were characterized as minimal or contained. Retail prices generally remained level, but some input prices increased.
In the Third District, economic activity moved up somewhat since the last Beige Book, on balance, although the advance did not include all sectors. Manufacturers, on balance, reported increases in shipments and new orders. Retailers generally posted gains from February to March. Motor vehicle dealers indicated that sales increased. Third District banks reported steady to slightly decreased loan volume outstanding. Residential real estate agents and homebuilders said home sales increased from February to March. Nonresidential real estate leasing and construction activity continued to be weak, but contacts reported some increase in purchase and investment activity. Business firms in the region indicated that prices of most goods and services have been steady, although there were increased reports of rising prices for basic materials and construction-related products.
The outlook among Third District business contacts is that business activity will continue to move up slowly in most sectors in the months ahead. Manufacturers forecast a rise in shipments and orders during the next six months, on balance. Retailers expect sales to expand modestly as consumer confidence is slowly restored. Auto dealers expect the sales rate to remain above last year's pace. Bankers expect slight increases in lending. Residential real estate contacts expect home sales to rise somewhat during the balance of the year, but they are unsure of the immediate trend after the expiration of the federal tax credit for homebuyers. Contacts in nonresidential real estate expect leasing to advance slightly as tenants take advantage of concessions and lower rents, but they do not expect much growth in demand for commercial space until firms begin to add workers in substantial numbers.
Source Beige Book
Click here for the Federal Reserve March 2009 Beige Book [Beige Book Archives]
See related blog articles:
Federal Reserve Beige Book For Economic Conditions (What is the "Beige Book"?)
The Federal Reserve - Making Sense In Plain English
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