Showing posts with label atlanta federal reserve bank. Show all posts
Showing posts with label atlanta federal reserve bank. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank sees labor and price pressures

 The Federal Reserve has issued its most recent commentary on current economic conditions.

Commonly known as the Beige Book, this report is published eight times per year. Each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. 

Below is the report provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on economic conditions in its district, which includes Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and portions of Louisiana, Mississippi.

Summary of Economic Activity
Economic activity in the Sixth District expanded at a moderate pace from mid-August through September. Demand for labor was strong, and worker supply remained extremely tight. Reports of wage increases, along with signing and retention bonuses, were widespread. Some nonlabor costs continued to rise, and pricing power improved. Retail sales activity strengthened, but the pace of new car sales slowed due to supply chain constraints. Domestic leisure travel activity remained strong. Demand for housing was robust, inventories declined, and home prices rose. Commercial real estate conditions were mixed. Manufacturing activity was robust, but production slowed as labor shortages caused more idle time. Conditions at financial institutions were stable, and consumer and residential loan demand improved.

Employment and Wages
District contacts continued to report strong demand for labor and the supply of available workers remained extremely tight. Turnover increased as staff left jobs for higher wages, greater flexibility, and better work environments. At the same time, the number of retirements increased. A few firms noted that recent surges in COVID-19 cases caused higher rates of absenteeism than in previous waves. Several employers said they have been forced to make daily evaluations on which operations can be supported based on the number of employees who came to work. The most severe shortages were among hospital nurses who were noted as migrating to other practices where they can have a stable schedule, or to traveling positions where they can earn multiples of their prior hourly rate. Most employers shared that they would like to implement COVID-19 vaccine mandates but were concerned about losing employees. Worries about employee mental health, burnout, safety, and vaccine mandates impacting company culture were mentioned.

Upward pressure on wages intensified over the reporting period and reports were relatively widespread. Several contacts mentioned that escalating living expenses have become a part of wage negotiations. Wage increases continued to be noted along with signing and retention bonuses. Employers were offering greater flexibility to retain and attract workers when possible and several noted new hires negotiating for more paid time off.

Prices
District contacts reported persistent increases in some nonlabor costs. In particular, steel and freight costs rose markedly. The volatility of these and other input costs, exacerbated by supply chain constraints, delayed construction projects across sectors, with uncertainty around expected completion timelines. Food prices also rose. Contacts continued to note an ability to pass through input cost increases. The Atlanta Fed's Business Inflation Expectations survey showed year-over-year unit costs were relatively unchanged in September at 3.2 percent, from 3.3 percent in August. Year-ahead expectations also remained generally stable at 3.1 percent in September, compared to 3 percent in August.

Consumer Spending and Tourism
District retailers reported strong demand since the previous report. However, several cited missed sales opportunities due to of a lack of inventory and persistent labor shortages that resulted in reduced hours of operation. The pace of new vehicle sales continued to slow due to supply chain constraints.

Domestic leisure travel continued to drive tourism activity for much of the District, though occupancy at limited-services hotel properties declined due to a rise in COVID-19 cases and the start of school. In New Orleans, tourism plummeted following Hurricane Ida; however, the city has since opened, and contacts expect activity will improve over the balance of the year. Some contacts indicated further deterioration in business travel and convention bookings due to rising COVID-19 cases and expressed uncertainty over the next three months.

Construction and Real Estate
Demand for housing throughout the District remained strong, though activity moderated slightly from record highs. Real estate contacts noted multiple offers on properties for sale. On a year-over-year basis, inventory levels declined, and home prices rose by double digits in most markets. Declining home ownership affordability was a growing concern for some buyers, resulting in more moderate growth in sales and declining homebuyer sentiment. The decline in affordability was widespread, with markets in Central and South Florida experiencing the sharpest decline in the District.

Commercial real estate activity was mixed. Conditions in the multifamily sector improved notably from last year, though there was growing uncertainty regarding future effects from the end of the eviction moratorium. Activity in the retail segment continued to improve. The office sector remained challenged as employers expressed uncertainty about future space needs. Negative rates of absorption and new deliveries pushed office vacancies upward. Contacts report that competition is accelerating among CRE lenders. Smaller banks and non-bank lenders have been identified by market contacts as some of the more aggressive CRE lenders.

Manufacturing
District manufacturers reported robust demand over the reporting period. However, materials shortages and longer supply delivery times continued to slow production, and some firms experienced increased down time due to higher absenteeism caused by COVID-19 illnesses. Several manufacturers anticipate further strengthening in demand but expressed uncertainty about future production levels.

Transportation
Activity in the transportation sector strengthened, on balance, since the previous report. Logistics contacts reported robust demand as the peak shipping season commenced. East coast ports saw record container volumes. However, growing numbers of container ships idled off the coast, as short supplies of chassis, trucks, and labor slowed throughput. Operations resumed for Gulf coast ports after Hurricane Ida caused shutdowns due to damaged facilities and power outages. Air cargo contacts reported a resumption of cargo-only flights to capitalize on bottlenecks at ports. Contacts expect gridlocks at ports and other supply chain disruptions to continue into 2022.

Banking and Finance
Conditions at District financial institutions remained stable. Margin pressures persisted as a result of the low interest rate environment, weak loan growth, and elevated liquidity. Loan balances declined for multiple loan portfolios, including commercial and industrial loans. Banks reported improvements in consumer and residential loan demand. Deposit levels remained high but growth moderated, causing some institutions to increase short-term borrowings. Asset quality remained healthy without notable increases to nonperforming loans or charge-offs.

Energy
Energy industry contacts reported damage to infrastructure servicing production in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of Hurricane Ida. However, some indicated that resiliency efforts made since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, including the hardening of energy infrastructure and investments in diesel-driven power generation, accelerated the recovery. Reduced oil and gas output was primarily attributed to challenges in redeploying workers since reentry into some communities was difficult or impossible after the storm. However, collaboration with private entities and state government helped alleviate immediate post-hurricane labor tightness. Some contacts expressed concern about short-term natural gas supply and pricing pressures resulting from reduced output. Further, reduced investment in oil and gas exploration and production in recent months is anticipated to result in long-term cutbacks in supply. Utilities contacts continued to cite strengthening residential, commercial, and industrial sales, as well as significant investment in renewables, particularly wind and solar power.

Agriculture
Agricultural conditions remained mixed. Widespread rain kept the District free of drought, but left parts of the District in abnormally moist to excessively wet conditions. Producers continued to assess damages from Hurricane Ida; initial estimates indicated damage to row and vegetable crops, sugarcane, timber, livestock, and infrastructure. On a year-over-year basis, production forecasts for corn, soybean, peanut, and cotton crops were up while rice and sugarcane forecasts were down. The USDA reported year-over-year prices paid to farmers in August were up for corn, cotton, soybeans, cattle, broilers, and eggs, but down for rice and milk. On a month-over-month basis, prices were up for corn, rice, cattle, broilers, and eggs but down for cotton, soybeans, and milk.

For more information about District economic conditions visit: www.frbatlanta.org/economymatters/regionaleconomics

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank finds “modest” expansion of economic activity in the South through the end of December 2020

 


The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is reporting that economic activity continued to expand at a modest pace from mid-November through December in its district, which includes the states of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

The bank, headquartered in Atlanta, reported that over the period of mid-November through December:

  • Labor markets continued to gradually improve
  • Wage pressures were muted
  • Nonlabor costs related to construction and supply chains were rising
  • Sales at auto dealers declined
  • Tourism and hospitality activity softened
  • Residential real estate demand remained strong
  • Residential mortgages showed an uptick in delinquencies
  • Commercial real estate markets remained soft
  • Manufacturing activity rose modestly
  • Banking conditions were stable 

Labor conditions 

Consistent with the findings of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Atlanta Fed found that overall employment levels had risen over the past months, although they stayed below the levels reached a year ago. 

Labor shortages were faced by trucking companies, while manufacturers and technology companies were reporting increased hiring. At the same time, some restaurants reported that they were layoff staff. Professional and business services firms were reluctant to hire even with increased business because they were uncertain about future business, as the coronavirus impacts the overall economy. 

Prices 

The Atlanta Fed found moderate price inflation since its last report. Both manufacturing and service sector firms saw price inflation for their goods and services. Service sector firms reported high prices for their inputs but slowed slightly for manufacturers. 

Inflation of prices paid outpaced that of prices received, according to firms. Prices rose for raw materials and longer lead times were required, particularly for materials used in construction. Some firms reported higher costs for personal protective equipment, also related to the coronavirus epidemic. 


These comments and others are provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta as its contribution to the Federal Reserve’s Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District, commonly known as the “Beige Book”. 

The report is published eight times a year in advance of Federal Open Market Committee meetings. The FOMC makes decisions about interest rates and the growth of the U.S. money supply. The first meeting of 2021 will occur January 26-27, 2021.

 A complete report of the Beige Book for all Federal Reserve districts is available at https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/beigebook202101.htm.