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(MNI) WASHINGTON

Business sentiment among firms in the western United States has deteriorated over the past eight weeks, pointing to slower growth in the coming months as firms continue to be plagued by high inflation and labor shortages, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco economist Luiz Oliveira said in an interview.

Firms in the San Francisco Fed district, the largest of the 12 Fed districts and home to a fifth of the U.S. nonfarm worker pool, "are saying prospects have deteriorated a little bit," Oliveira said. "What you can expect is a continuation of this easing trend that we have observed in recent weeks."

The district still expanded modestly overall in recent weeks, but "we are seeing signs of easing in consumption, in homebuilding and the demand for homes, some subindustries within the manufacturing sector and in overall activity," Oliveira said.

Waning business sentiment comes as U.S. consumer confidence as measured by a University of Michigan survey stayed close to last month's all-time low. Its preliminary result for consumer sentiment in July was 51.1, rebounding slightly from June's record low 50.0.

HIRING SLOWDOWN

Demand has weakened for electrical equipment and fabricated metals and recycled metals recently, potential early signs of slowing for the manufacturing sector overall, Oliveira said.

Similarly, hiring has started to lose steam, though labor demand still outpaces labor availability, Oliveira said. "Job posting within the tech sector is a good measure of that. We're seeing hiring freezes and layoffs in some specific companies. But it's not peculiar to the tech sector necessarily, we're seeing a slowdown in hiring momentum in other sectors as well."

However, as the labor market remains very tight, "wages are still growing at a rapid pace even if it's moderated a bit from a few months ago," he added.

Businesses also reported the cost of raw materials and supplies rising quickly since mid-May as availability worsened a tad. Shipping costs for some exporters have come down but supply chain issues remain a constraint and source of uncertainty for most firms, Oliveira said.

MNI Washington Bureau | +1 202-371-2121 | jean.yung@marketnews.com
MNI Washington Bureau | +1 202-371-2121 | jean.yung@marketnews.com

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