Fri, Apr 13, 2012 - Page 10 News List

US growth, hiring improve: Federal Reserve survey

BEIGE BOOK:Based on anecdotal evidence rather than figures, the findings showed job gains, a rise in consumer spending and an improved housing market

AP, Washington

A US Federal Reserve survey of business conditions across the nation suggests last month’s pullback in hiring could be temporary.

The survey released on Wednesday showed that each of the Fed’s 12 bank districts grew steadily from the middle of February through April 2, and hiring was stable or increased throughout most of the country.

The US Labor Department last week said that job creation slowed last month to half the pace from the previous three months. However, the Fed survey, which is anecdotal, did not reflect the weakening.

The survey, known as the Beige Book, is released eight times a year and is based on surveys by the Fed’s 12 regional banks. There are no numbers in the report, but its findings, which are released two weeks before the Fed’s policy meeting, help influence the discussions.

When the Fed meets on April 24 and 25, members are expected to stick with their plan to hold short-term interest rates at record lows until at least late 2014. They will likely point to the slower hiring pace last month as evidence that the economy still needs support.

The Beige Book offered a brighter outlook for the coming months. Job gains occurred in manufacturing, shipping, information technology and professional business services, the survey showed.

Consumers are still spending. Retail sales increased in almost all districts, the report said. And four districts said the short-term outlook for retail spending is positive.

The housing market showed improvement in most areas. Developers built more apartments, and banks said demand for loans increased.

“The report was generally positive, with widespread optimism about manufacturing and an encouraging outlook for household spending,” Dana Saporta, an economist at Credit Suisse, said in a note to clients.

However, the survey cautioned that the economy and job market are far from recovered. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned that the economy is growing too slowly to maintain recent declines in the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate has fallen from 9.1 percent in August to 8.2 percent last month.

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