Highlights from the Fed's latest economic survey

The survey, released Wednesday and known as the Beige Book, is based on information collected from the Fed's 12 regional bank districts. The last time the 12 regions all showed growth was in late 2007.


(This region covers Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and part of Connecticut.)

Software and information technology firms reported "demand up significantly" from a year ago. Companies in the manufacturing, pharmaceutical and IT industries are modestly increasing hiring. Firms that had frozen pay are reinstating merit-based raises. The European debt crisis and the strengthening dollar are concerns for firms with international business, but growth is expected to continue. Commercial real estate leasing was flat and in some cases "noticeably improved" compared to a few months ago.


(This region covers New York and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey.)

The economy strengthened with "scattered signs of improvement in the job market." Retail sales were strong in April but slowed in May. Tourism in New York City improved in April and May, with Manhattan hotels reporting higher occupancy. Commercial real estate leasing has "picked up noticeably" this year, though vacancy rates are still edging up. Rents "appear to be bottoming."


(This region covers Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.)

The economy grew modestly. The business outlook is "positive but cautious." Manufacturers reported demand for their goods slowly increasing. Merchants said sales rose in May from April, and spring apparel sales continued to do well. Bankers said there has been a "small increase" in business lending, as demand for loans has also risen.


(This region covers Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.)

A boost in manufacturing output has lifted the area, although orders remain below pre-recession levels. Factories are recalling workers and increasing hours. Most manufacturers "are confident about near-term prospects" but they "do not expect a strong rebound to pre-recession levels," and a few anticipate a leveling off in orders. Bankers said the demand for new business loans is flat.


(This region covers Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of West Virginia.)

Manufacturing is a "bright spot." Auto parts makers saw sales jump more than expected. Residential real estate markets improved, with the inventory of unsold homes in the Washington, D.C. suburbs falling to its lowest level in 18 months. Some of those sales were likely spurred by the homebuyer tax credit, which expired on April 30. Tourism improved, with North Carolina and Virginia beaches reporting stronger-than-expected bookings over the Memorial Day weekend.


(This region covers Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.)

The economy improved modestly, leaving firms in several sectors increasing the number of hours their existing staffs worked and hiring temporary workers. But many companies were reluctant to make new permanent hires. Tourism has strengthened, but "considerable uncertainty was expressed" about the impact of the Gulf oil spill. Retailers said traffic and sales improved and they expect sales growth to continue over the next couple of months.


(This region covers Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of Illinois and Indiana.)

The economy improved, but gains were slower in May than in April. Manufacturing activity rose in April, led by the automotive, energy and consumer goods industries. Retailers, manufacturers and professional services' companies boosted hiring. Exports for large mining, agricultural and other industrial equipment to Asia and South America remained strong.


(This region covers Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky, and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Mississippi.)

Retail sales rose in April and early May and merchants reported a "mostly optimistic" outlook for this summer. More manufacturers said they were hiring new workers and opening plants than cutting workers or closing factories. Several government agencies and education services providers announced layoffs. Commercial and industrial real estate activity remained slow. The suburban office vacancy rate increased in Little Rock; Louisville, Ky.; and Memphis and was flat in St. Louis.


(This region covers Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin and Michigan.)

The economy grew at a steady pace. Tourism firms are optimistic about the summer season. Home construction is rebounding, with building permits in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region nearly double in May from the previous year. Commercial real estate was slow, with vacant space increasing in Minneapolis. There was scattered hiring, but overall the job markets were weak.


(This region covers Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Missouri and New Mexico.)

The economy grew modestly. Home sales improved, but real estate agents expected them to fall in coming months now that the tax credit has expired. Retailers reported higher sales, led by summer clothing and cheap appliances. Manufacturing growth slowed after several months of gains. Employment levels were stable, as fewer firms planned to hire more workers.


(This region covers Texas and parts of New Mexico and Louisiana.)

Business activity improved in manufacturing, transportation services, housing and energy. Retail sales were flat or slightly down. Some high-tech manufacturers reported a slight weakening in demand for exports due to the European debt crisis. Housing demand improved as the homebuyer tax credit drove "a wave of buying." Bankers said that commercial and industrial loans are increasing. Many potential mortgage borrowers are being turned down due to poor credit.


(This region covers California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Hawaii and Alaska.)

Retail sales rose modestly but "remained somewhat lackluster." Auto sales increased. Tourism and leisure improved, with business travel and convention activity climbing. Commercial aircraft companies benefited from a backlog of orders, though new orders "continued to be limited."