Economy of the US continues to grow steadily, but uncertainty lingers

The U.S. economy keeps rolling along, but the latest Federal Reserve economic snapshot reveals some concerns about the impact of government policies.

Economic activity increased at a “modest” to “moderate” pace in all 12 Fed districts across the country from mid-February through the end of March, according to the “Beige Book” issued today from the Federal Reserve System.

Nationally, services, energy-related business and tourism/travel activity picked up. Some results were mixed: Home construction accelerated as home sales growth slowed and manufacturing grew, but the growth of freight shipments slowed. And consumer spending, agricultural and commercial and industrial construction varied across regions.

Still, some executives in manufacturing, housing, retail and technology around the country expressed concerns about policy uncertainty.

In the San Francisco district, hotel receipts were up, but hoteliers noted that hotel stays were “lower than expected due to changes in immigration policy and increased scrutiny of foreign arrivals.”

In the Dallas Fed district, a few manufacturers were especially worried about changes that would impact trade with Mexico. Mexico is Texas’ No. 1 export market.

Nationally, some retailers said expected visa reductions and limited ability to raise prices increased their uncertain outlook and could hinder expansion plans.

Some national tech executives expressed concern that continued legislative struggles could dampen future business confidence and that hostile immigration policy could further tighten labor markets for skilled and unskilled labor. Employment remained tight with increasing wage pressers in many regions. Some executives in the San Francisco district noted that technology and non-technology sectors increasingly are competing for workers with similar advanced skills.

In addition to California, the San Francisco Fed district includes eight other states — Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington — plus American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. It’s the largest in terms of geography and size of the economy of the Fed’s 12 districts across the country.

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