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Beige Book: March 2017 Update

The Beige Book is a Federal Reserve System publication about current economic conditions across the 12 Federal Reserve Districts. This summary provides the March report from the Eighth District, headquartered in St. Louis. Highlights include:

• Employment growth was modest and wage growth was moderate. Anecdotal evidence suggests that tightness in the labor market has resulted in some employers increasing wages to attract employees.

• Price pressures remained modest, and low commodity prices continue to put pressure on sectors dependent on the agricultural sector.

• Consumer spending growth was moderate in March, with particularly strong retail sales growth in the Memphis area.

• March manufacturing activity was stronger than one month ago in both Arkansas and Missouri, although the pace of increase slowed slightly in Missouri.

• Residential real estate activity has decreased slightly since last month, with declining home sales in most metro areas.

•Commercial construction activity was mixed. Non-residential construction decreased in February, but reports from local contacts were generally positive, with most seeing either a continuation of strong construction activity or an increase in the number of projects undertaken.

• Commercial and industrial lending among District banks rose at a moderate to robust rate and markedly outpaced the nation in terms of growth.

• Natural resource extraction conditions improved modestly in February. For example, seasonally adjusted coal production was 10 percent above the same period in 2016.