The Federal Reserve said “moderate” growth across most of the country in December was buoyed by gains in holiday spending by consumers, an improving labor market and strength in manufacturing.
“The economic outlook is positive in most districts, with some reports citing expectations of ‘more of the same’ and some expecting a pickup in growth,” the Fed said in what is called its Beige Book business survey, based on reports gathered on or before Jan. 6.
Nine of 12 Federal Reserve districts grew at a moderate pace, up from seven in the previous report, released on Dec. 4. Two districts said growth was modest, down from four.
The economy in Ohio and parts of neighboring states was one that continued to expand moderately.
Hiring was sluggish across most industry sectors as a pickup in construction jobs continued in the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Fourth District. Staffing firms reported that job openings and placements rose slightly; vacancies were primarily in health care, information technology, and oil and gas.
Fed contacts said they had a positive outlook for the new year and expect demand for products and services to remain at current levels or rise.
Demand for manufactured products over the last six weeks was higher than a year ago. Suppliers to the aerospace, housing, motor vehicle, and oil and gas industries saw the most activity.
Housing market activity was strong, with nonresidential builders seeing increases. New single-family home sales have been trending slightly lower since October. Single-family construction starts were significantly higher than a year ago.
Holiday shopping retail purchases were higher than a year ago.
New vehicle sales were higher than a year ago. Buyers were shifting from smaller, fuel-efficient cars to SUVs, crossovers, and light trucks. The number of oil and gas drilling rigs increased; natural gas output was stable. Freight shipping volume met or exceeded expectations during the past six weeks. Year-over-year volume is expected to grow moderately to strong.
The report gives the national Federal Open Market Committee anecdotal information two weeks before it meets Jan. 28-29. The committee last month reduced monthly bond purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion, citing job improvements.
Beacon Journal business writer Jim Mackinnon contributed to this report.