'It's Getting Better All the Time,' Reports Fed Beige Book

17 October 2003

The latest issue of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book - a monthly anecdotal snapshot of economic conditions across the USA - portrays a nation gaining economic momentum despite downbeat employment data.

While labor markets remain weak, five of the twelve Fed districts reported some signs of improvement in jobs. The data covers a period from late August through early October.

But in overall terms, ten Fed districts reported stronger economic activity, while the remaining duo (Boston and Cleveland) posted mixed but not declining economic data. Summarised the Fed: "Information received from the district banks suggests that, on balance, the pace of economic expansion has picked up since the last [August] report."

• Separately, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday that America's shopping spree eased off in September, with national retail sales dipping 0.2% - the first decline since April.

However, the fall was seen as inevitable by some economists who believed it impossible to maintain the momentum generated by President Bush's third tax cut, which saw a buying bonanza in July and August. But the slippage was double the consensus forecast of minus 0.1%.

• In a third report, the monthly index of manufacturing activity recorded by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York rose from 18.35 in September to an October record of 33.7.

Data sourced from: USA Today; additional content by WARC staff