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Eighth District Beige Book Update: May 2017

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

  • Employment increases were modest in the District, but survey respondents are optimistic. Forty percent of contacts expect third-quarter employment to be higher or slightly higher than a year ago.
  • Consumer spending is mixed: General retailers reported modest sales growth, but 63 percent of auto dealers reported a reduction in year-over-year sales.
  • Most manufacturing contacts reported that production, new orders, and capacity utilization increased in the second quarter relative to one year ago, and 65 percent expect further growth in these areas.
  • Residential real estate activity has declined, with inventory shortages cited as a hindrance to sales, particularly in Louisville. Residential construction and commercial real estate activity improved modestly. Commercial construction activity remained robust, and contacts reported an increase in multifamily and industrial construction.
  • Banking contacts noted strong growth in demand for business and mortgage loans.
  • Flooding across the District was blamed for deteriorating agricultural conditions. The current pace of cotton, corn, rice, and soybean planting is below last year’s pace.