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--Report Prepared by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank
--Responses Collected Before Nov. 17
     WASHINGTON (MNI) - The following is an excerpt from the summary of 
the Federal Reserve's report on Current Economic Conditions, known as 
The Beige Book, released Wednesday: 
     Overall Economic Activity 
     Economic activity continued to increase at a modest to moderate 
pace in October and mid-November, according to anecdotal reports from 
contacts across the 12 Federal Reserve Districts. There was a slight 
improvement in the outlook among contacts in reporting Districts. 
Pre-holiday reports of consumer spending on retail and autos were mixed 
but largely flat; still, the outlook for holiday sales was generally 
optimistic. Many Districts highlighted growth in the transpor-tation 
sector, although the New York District reported a slight softening and 
the San Francisco District noted that North-ern California wildfires 
temporarily reduced shipping volumes. Residential real estate activity 
remained constrained, with most Districts reporting little growth in 
sales or construction. By contrast, nonresidential activity was 
consistent with previous reports of slight growth. Loan demand was 
steady to moderately stronger. All Districts reported that 
manufac-turing activity expanded during the reporting period, with most 
describing growth as moderate. Among reporting Dis-tricts, manufacturing 
contacts predominantly expected activity to continue to pick up, 
although the Philadelphia and St. Louis Districts noted signs of a 
slowdown.   
     Employment and Wages 
     Employment growth has increased since the previous report, with 
most Districts characterizing growth as modest to moderate. Reports of 
tightness in the labor market were widespread. Most Districts reported 
employers were having difficulties finding qualified workers across 
various skill levels, and several Districts reported that an inability 
to find workers with the required skills was a key factor restraining 
hiring plans. Wage growth was modest or moderate in most Districts. Wage 
increases were most notable for professional, technical, and production 
positions that remain difficult to fill. Many Districts reported that 
employers were raising wages as well as increasing their use of signing 
bonuses and other nonwage benefits to retain or attract employees. 
     Prices 
  
     Price pressures have strengthened since the last report. Most 
Districts reported modest to moderate growth in selling prices and 
moderate increases in non-labor input costs. In particular, 
construction-material costs rose in most regions, with many Districts 
citing increased lumber costs and/or increases in demand for materials 
due to hurricane rebuilding efforts. Residential real estate prices 
generally increased as well. There were also reports of increases in 
costs in the transportation sector. Additionally, several Districts 
noted input cost increases in manufacturing. In many cases, these 
increases in transportation and manufacturing were passed through to 
consumers. Fuel prices also rose, with multiple Districts reporting 
upward pressure on oil and natural gas prices. However, agricultural 
price pressures remain mixed. 
--MNI Washington Bureau;tel: +1 202 371-2121                       
                                                     
[TOPICS: MMUFE$,M$U$$$]