The southeastern economy continued to improve moderately in December 2011, according to the most recent Data Digest from the Atlanta Fed's Regional Economic Information Network (REIN). However, the economic activity in the region still lags that of the nation. Likewise, the job market in the Southeast has been slow to recover from the 2007–09 recession, with most states experiencing only modest job growth.
Further, the region's manufacturing activity, as measured by the Southeastern Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), slowed in December. With a reading of 49.8, the index came in just under the level of expansion (an index reading of 50).
On a more positive note, retail activity improved at the end of 2011, according to the Atlanta Fed's survey of southeastern retailers. In addition to reporting an increase in sales and store traffic, the majority of retailers indicated that the 2011 holiday shopping season was better than the previous year's. Across the region, states reported that sales tax receipts in December were up from last year's levels.
Another survey, this one of builders and brokers in the region, highlighted continued downward pressure on home prices. Contacts reported declining inventories on a year-over-year basis. Despite the still weak housing market, however, brokers and builders reported having an improved outlook.