The Fed's Beige Book report, based on data available before July 8, said manufacturing "increased in most" of the Fed's 12 districts, with the exception being Kansas City, Mo., which experienced a slight contraction.
Overall growth was "modest to moderate," with growth in the Dallas district described as expanding at "a slightly stronger pace over the past six weeks than during the previous reporting period."
Despite flat retail growth, manufacturing around in the Dallas district was helped with gains reported by petrochemical producers and metals.
Manufacturing in the Kansas City district was held back "with storms retarding some activity," the Fed said.
Demand for residential construction was "strong" in several districts, the Fed said, as orders for new homes "continued to simulate the manufacturing sector."
The central banks said residential real estate activity increased at a "moderate to strong pace in most districts."
A stronger housing market sparked gains in home building supplies and furniture, the Fed noted.
The Fed said "automobile manufacturing remained a source of strength in the Chicago, St. Louis and Minneapolis districts."
As a compliment to that, "steel and metal production increased in several districts, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, and San Francisco. Fabricated metal manufacturers in the Philadelphia and Dallas Districts reported gains."
The Fed said hiring "held steady or increased at a measured pace in most districts."
Reports from Philadelphia, Richmond, and Chicago noted employers were "cautious or reluctant to hire permanent or full-time staff." There was stronger demand for part-time workers in the Richmond and Chicago districts, the Fed said.
Some employers reported they were having trouble finding skilled workers.
"Transportation contacts in the Cleveland, Atlanta, and Kansas City districts noted some difficulty finding qualified drivers," the Fed said. "Contacts in the New York, Richmond, and San Francisco Districts reported high demand for technology workers."
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