The New England economy grew sluggishly through the summer, helped by a rebound in tourism and business travel and the gradual recovery in the region’s residential real estate market, according to a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday.
The region’s software and information technology firms also reported that “business is good,” even though some high-technology companies reported slowing sales in recent months.
Overall, businesses are “hiring only modestly,” the Fed’s report said. “Outlooks remain uncertain.”
The central bank surveys businesses across the 12 Federal Reserve districts and publishes its findings, including regional reports, eight times a year in what is known as the Beige Book.
The report is released in advance of the regular Fed meetings at which interest rates and other policies are set.
Policy makers next meet Sept. 12-13.
New England retailers said demand has been strong for adult clothing, but spending on furniture and electronics is slower than a year ago. Some companies reported disappointing sales during the last six weeks, while others said consumers were “coming back.” Most said they felt uncertain about the future, due to political uncertainties in the United States and the financial crisis in Europe.
Manufacturing has picked up from earlier this year; of the 12 companies contacted, only two reported lower sales, compared to a year earlier. One, a manufacturer of semiconductors, attributed the decline to industry cycles while the other, a software company, expressed concern about defense spending cuts that could go into effect in January unless Congress agrees on budget measures.
None of the participants in the survey are named, but one “major defense contractor” said it was expecting “significant layoffs” in coming months as the result of a merger.
Software and information technology companies, mostly clustered in Massachusetts, generally reported year-over-year revenue increases between 5 and 10 percent through June.
Sales of single-family homes and condominiums have continued to increase over the year throughout most of New England due to low interest rates, attractive prices, and pent-up demand, according to the Fed.
Rising rents in Boston also helped spur home sales.
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