Economic Activity Rises Amid Tight Labor Market

U.S. Federal Reserve (10/21/20)

Economic activity continued to increase across all districts, with the pace of growth characterized as slight to modest in most districts. Changes in activity varied greatly by sector. Manufacturing activity generally increased at a moderate pace. Consumer spending growth remained positive, but some districts reported a leveling off of retail sales and a slight uptick in tourism activity. Districts characterized the outlooks of contacts as generally optimistic or positive, but with a considerable degree of uncertainty.

Employment increased in almost all districts, though growth remained slow. Employment gains were reported most consistently for manufacturing firms, although firms continued to report new furloughs and layoffs. Most districts continued reporting tight labor markets, attributing it to workers’ health and child care concerns, with many firms consequently offering increased schedule flexibility; a few districts, however, noted some firms were finding it easier to hire workers. Wages increased slightly in most districts, often tied to firms’ difficulty finding workers, especially for low-wage or high-demand jobs. Some firms reported returning wages (and raises) to normal levels, but many reported more stable wages.

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