Beacon Journal staff and wire report
Bitter winter weather hurt business activity in Ohio and parts of nearby states over the past two months even as a Federal Reserve survey shows economic growth picking up across most of the United States.
Ten of the Fed’s 12 regions reported an increase in economic activity as weather conditions subsided, according to the Beige Book survey released Wednesday.
Only the Cleveland and St. Louis regions reported slower growth.
In most places, the Fed described the improvement as “modest or moderate” with information collected for the six weeks just prior to April 7.
Weather likely hurt business activity in Ohio and parts of neighboring states in February and into March, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland reported.
Economic activity in the Cleveland Fed’s Fourth District declined slightly and hiring was sluggish, the report showed. Staffing firms said job openings and placements were mixed. Job vacancies were largely in manufacturing and health care.
The Cleveland Fed reported:
• Demand for manufactured products grew, but slowly. Demand was higher than a year ago.
• The number of new and existing single-family homes sold during February was little changed compared to January. Sales declined modestly from a year ago; cold weather likely hurt sales but there also was concern about the housing market stabilizing after a year of growth. Building contractors reported that their pipelines remained active.
• Cold weather in February and early March also led to disappointing new vehicle and retail sales. Vehicle dealers were optimistic about the spring selling season.
• Shale gas production remained at a high level. Coal output trended lower.
• Freight volume declined.
• Demand for business and consumer credit moved higher.
Nationally, in March and early April, consumers took advantage of better weather to go shopping. Manufacturing expanded across most of the country. Ports and highways were busier. Tourism was “generally positive.”
The Beige Book is based on anecdotal reports from businesses and will be considered along with other data when Fed policymakers meet April 29-30.