Fed’s Beige Book “This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City based on information collected on or before January 3, 2022.”
Economic activity across the United States expanded at a modest pace in the final weeks of 2021. Contacts from many Districts indicated growth continued to be constrained by ongoing supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. Despite the modest pace of growth, demand for materials and inputs, and demand for workers, remained elevated among businesses. Lending activity picked up slightly toward the end of the year, led by commercial real estate borrowers. Consumer spending continued to grow at a steady pace ahead of the rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. Most Districts noted a sudden pull back in leisure travel, hotel occupancy and patronage at restaurants as the number of new cases rose in recent weeks. Although optimism remained high generally, several Districts cited reports from businesses that expectations for growth over the next several months cooled somewhat during the last few weeks. The manufacturing sector continued to expand nationally, with some regional differences in the pace of growth. Overall activity in the transportation sector expanded at a moderate pace. While farm incomes were elevated throughout 2021, agricultural conditions were marred by drought conditions across several Districts.
Employment grew modestly in recent weeks, but contacts from most Districts reported that demand for additional workers remains strong. Job openings were up but overall payroll growth was constrained by persistent labor shortages. Tightness in labor markets drove robust wage growth nationwide, with some Districts highlighting additional growth in labor costs associated with non-wage benefits. While many contacts noted that wage gains among low-skill workers were particularly strong, compensation growth remained well above historical averages across industries, across worker demographics, and across geographies. Besides wage gains, many contacts indicated adjustments to job demands – such as accommodating part-time work or adjusting qualification requirements – to attract more applicants and retain existing workforces.