Regional Update (April-June 1997)

Index The state of the states Views from the region Southeastern manufacturing survey Southeastern economic indicators

Cover Story - Chinese Crawfish Reduce Louisiana Market Share

Building the Capital of the New South: A Review of Atlanta Rising

Views from the Region

T he Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta periodically polls business representatives throughout the Southeast regarding their opinions on economic trends. Their observations are published in the Fed's Beigebook. In the Beigebook issued May 7, business representatives' comments suggested that the regional economic picture continues its moderate expansion. Here is a summary of their views.

Consumer Spending

  • Most District merchants reported April sales above those of a year ago, with levels meeting expectations.
  • Retailers note especially strong current sales of spring apparel, shoes and cosmetics. Household goods sales, however, have apparently weakened recently.
  • Real estate contacts report that single-family home sales and construction were flat in the District on a year-over-year basis in March and early April. The contacts are slightly more positive about the third quarter of this year.
  • Contacts report that commercial real estate markets remain strong. They believe that new industrial and office development continues because of lower vacancy and higher rental rates.
  • Reports of factory activity have been varied. Aerospace firms continue to gain new contracts and expand. Shipyards along the Gulf Coast reportedly can't find enough skilled workers to keep pace with their recent business boom.
  • New orders are increasing for some building product producers, particularly some carpet producers, and electrical equipment manufacturers are adding to employment rolls. In contrast, furniture manufacturers are cutting back production because of weak orders.
  • The factory workweek is increasing for auto parts producers.
  • A paper company spokesman reports it is being forced to lower prices to boost sluggish sales, and a producer of paper-making machinery also notes slowing activity. Weakness continues in much of the apparel segment.
Tourism and Business Travel
  • Expansion continues in the tourism and hospitality sectors, and the outlook is positive. Industry representatives say that tourism is especially strong in south Florida, and the trend is expected to continue.
  • Attraction attendance and spending are up from a year ago in Tennessee; finding quality employees is reportedly the number one problem for Nashville's hospitality industry.
  • Tourism, conventions and gaming continue to thrive along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and casino revenues from some gambling boats in Louisiana have grown at double-digit rates from a year ago.
  • Although overall airline passenger traffic declined moderately in Atlanta from a year ago, international traffic increased.
Financial Services
  • Most banking contacts report that consumer and commercial loan demands have flattened in recent weeks. Reports on the volume of mortgage and automobile financing were mixed.
Wages and Prices
  • Despite continuing reports of labor shortages, wage pressures as well as prices are said generally to be in check.
The full text of the two most recent Beigebooks is available on the Internet by clicking here.