Jeff Kearns
Bloomberg News

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday the U.S. economy continued to expand “gradually” in July and early August as improvement in housing and retail sales helped outweigh weakness in manufacturing.

Most regional reserve banks reported employment was “holding steady or growing only slightly,” the Fed said in what is called the “Beige Book” business survey based on reports from its 12 districts, including Cleveland. The report reflects information collected on or before Aug. 20.

“Retail activity, including auto sales, had increased since the last Beige Book report” in most districts, the Fed said. “Many districts reported some softening in manufacturing, either a slowdown in the rate of growth or a decline in the level of sales.”

Policymakers will meet Sept. 12-13. The Federal Open Market Committee will weigh whether more accommodation is needed to spur an expansion that isn’t bringing down a jobless rate stuck above 8 percent since 2009.