NEW YORK – The economic expansion continued in all regions of the country, with most terming expansion as modest or moderate, according to the Beige Book, released Wednesday.

“Activity in the Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts grew at a moderate pace, while Cleveland and St. Louis cited modest growth,” according to the report. “New York reported that economic growth picked up somewhat. Philadelphia and Richmond cited improving business conditions. The economy in Minneapolis grew at a solid pace and Kansas City’s economy expanded at a faster pace.”

Manufacturing picked up in most districts, with automotive and high-tech industries citing gains. Boston and St. Louis manufacturers reported mixed conditions and Chicago producers said growth “leveled off” after starting the year strong. Manufacturers were optimistic about short-term growth, but worry about rising fuel prices.

Warm weather was credited for stronger retail sales in several districts, but several districts reported respondents “expressed concerns that rising gas prices could limit discretionary spending in the months to come.”

New-vehicle sales were said to be “strong or strengthening” in much of the country.

Tourism gained.

Residential real estate “showed some improvement, with many contacts citing expansion in the construction of multi-family housing,” while nonresidential real estate grew or was flat.

“Agricultural conditions were generally favorable,” the report said.” Mining activity expanded and oil extraction rose, while natural gas drilling slowed. Banking conditions were largely stable, with some improvement seen in loan demand. Several Districts reported increased credit quality.”

In terms of labor, hiring was flat or increased modestly. “Difficulty finding qualified workers, especially for high-skilled positions, was frequently reported,” according to the Beige Book. “Upward pressure on wages was constrained. Overall price inflation was modest. However, contacts in many Districts commented on rising transportation costs due to higher fuel prices.”

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