Fed: Economy still growing, but not much faster

The U.S economy is continuing to grow, but has not reached another level of expansion, according to the Federal Reserve.

The central bank Wednesday released its latest “beige book,” a collection of anecdotal information from business contacts nationwide that capture the state of the U.S. economy.

Overall, officials from the 12 Federal Reserve districts reported that the economy was continuing to expand since they last met in July. But during that time, there was no “distinct shift” in the overall pace of that growth.

The overall picture presented by the latest Fed report is one of continued optimism, as incoming economic data have been relatively strong in recent months. Business contacts noted strong activity in such sectors as auto sales and manufacturing as reasons for the positive outlook.

But with millions still either out of work or underemployed, there were also few signs the recovery was ready to shift to a new gear. The Fed said that nationwide, the overall picture for employment and wages remained “relatively unchanged.”

Specifically, the Fed found that labor market conditions continued to be “generally modest,” even as monthly jobs reports have been relatively strong and the unemployment rate has continued to fall. Specifically, most business contacts reported difficulty finding skilled workers for open positions, even as wage pressures also remained relatively flat.

There were also some signs of continued slowness in the economy. For example, only a third of the districts reported increases in the demand for residential mortgages as housing activity continued to slow.

Half of the districts reported that the construction and sale of new homes had grown.

However, demand for business capital was up in most of the districts, and loan volumes by banks were up across the board.