Federal Reserve banks in Atlanta and St. Louis, both of which have Mississippi jurisdictions, report modest gains in economic activity since mid July.
Reporting in the Federal Reserve’s Sept. 4 Beige Book, the Atlanta Fed said business optimism for 2014 exceeds actual gains to this point. “Regardless of the outlook, most firms continue to be optimistic and expect higher growth over the remainder of the year,” the Atlanta Fed reported.
The Atlanta Fed’s economic monitoring takes in the central and southern half of the state, while the St. Louis Fed surveys activity in the northern half. The various Federal Reserve banks survey businesses from all the main sectors in compiling assessments detailed in the Beige Book. The book is published several times yearly.
For the Atlanta region, retailers noted sales increased from their year-earlier levels and automobile sales continued an upward trend, the report said.
On the real estate front, the Atlanta Fed said brokers and builders reported sales of existing and new homes outpaced last year’s levels.
In Central Mississippi, builders have been challenged in finding materials and skilled workers to keep up with homebuilding demand, according to Curt Gabardi, president & CEO of Ridgeland-based Metropolitan Bank.
He said much of the residential building is focused on first-time homebuyers. “The $225,000 to $250,000 is a very strong market,” Gabardi said, and noted builders are selling the homes before starting construction.
He said residential builders in his bank’s Nashville, Tenn., market have had difficulty obtaining vacant land to meet the housing demand. “The good news for Metro Jackson is that the balance seems just about right, ” Gabardi said. “The balance of supply and absorption of unsold homes here is at a pretty healthy point.”
For commercial real estate, the Atlanta Fed reported improved demand and modest growth in construction.
By contrast, the St. Louis Fed said its region’s commercial and industrial real estate markets have been mixed, with weak demand in Louisville, Ky., for office space and increased demand in St. Louis. Memphis reported stable office vacancy and decreases in both industrial and retail vacancy rates.
Home sales decreased in the St. Louis Fed’s region, with Memphis reporting the highest decline at 6 percent.
Both the Atlanta and St. Louis districts reported modest employment growth, though the Atlanta Fed said businesses still mentioned difficulties in finding qualified workers. The shortage, the reported noted, seems to ne “both intensifying and broadening across skills and occupations.”
Most contacts continued to report “relatively stable” wage growth in the 2 percent to 3 percent range, the Atlanta noted.
For the St. Louis district, 60 percent of contacts reported that wages have stayed the same, while 31 percent reported a slight increase and 8 percent a slight decrease.