Fed report shows solid regional economic conditions

    Economic activity continued to expand across much of the U.S. at the end of fall, while the labor market continued to tighten and wages and prices rose, according to a Federal Reserve report released today.

    As The Wall Street Journal reports, most of the Fed’s 12 regional districts reported their economies expanded at a modest or moderate pace in recent weeks, the central bank said in its latest roundup of anecdotal information about regional economic conditions known as the beige book. The report was based on information collected through Nov. 26.

    Business contacts in many districts said the labor market had tightened further in a broad range of fields. The Labor Department’s most recent jobs report showed employers added 250,000 jobs to their payrolls in October, above monthly averages in recent years, despite recent market volatility. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.7%, a 49-year low. Wages rose 3.1% from the prior year in October, the biggest annual gain for average hourly earnings since 2009, as employers compete for scarce talent.

    Meanwhile, prices rose at a modest pace in most districts, with a few noting moderate increases. The personal-consumption-expenditures index was up 2% in October from the prior year, which is the level of inflation the central bank considers healthy for the economy. It has been at or above the Fed’s 2% target every month since February—after years of undershooting—but remains subdued.

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