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Fri, Jul 31, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Recession slowing down in most of US, Fed says

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

The pace of the recession has slowed or stabilized in most areas of the US, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday in a report that pointed to protracted job market weakness even as the economy transitions to recovery.

Labor markets across the country were “extremely soft,” with little upward pressure on wages, the Fed said in its Beige Book survey of economic conditions through July 20.

Wages and compensation were steady or falling in most areas, the Fed said.

Employers reported different methods of cutting pay in addition to, or instead of, freezing or lowering wages, it said.

Stocks slipped on the report’s suggestion that the jobs picture may be gloomy for a while.

“Consumer spending, residential and commercial real estate, tourism, labor markets ... soft, soft, soft, soft, and soft,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist with BMO Capital Markets Research in Toronto.

“I expected the overall tone to be a little less subdued,” Lee said.

Fed officials say they expect growth to return in the second half of the year, but warn they expect the recovery will be sluggish and high unemployment will persist for a while.

Factory activity was depressed in many areas, although the Fed said some districts saw signs of modest improvement.

“We passed the eye of the storm about four weeks ago,” one North Carolina textile manufacturer told the Fed.

Residential real estate markets were weak in most districts, although many reported evidence things were getting better.

The outlook for commercial real estate — which Fed officials have cited as a potential looming problem — was mixed, with some Fed contacts forecasting further deterioration into late next year.

Commercial real estate markets weakened in two-thirds of Fed districts and remained slow in others, the Fed said.

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