Economic activity generally continued to expand modestly in the final six weeks of 2019, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s “beige book.” Manufacturing activity remained essentially flat in most districts. Business in nonfinancial services was mixed but, on balance, growing modestly.
Employment was steady to rising modestly in most districts, while labor markets remained tight. Most districts cited widespread labor shortages as a factor constraining job growth. A few districts noted brisk demand for professional, technical, and managerial workers. A number of Districts reported job cuts or reduced hiring among manufacturers, and there were scattered reports of job cuts in the transportation and energy sectors. Wage growth was characterized as modest or moderate in most districts—similar to the prior reporting period—and there were scattered reports of wage increases from year-end hikes in minimum wages. A few districts also noted the use of benefits, incentives, training programs, and automation to reduce vacancies.