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New England firms struggle with hiring, according to Fed report

A “Now Hiring” sign hung on the door to the Urban Outfitters store at Quincy Market in Boston.BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS/ FILE 2014

New England employers are feeling the pinch of a tight labor market as retailers, manufacturers, and staffing firms struggle to fill open positions and keep workers, according to the Federal Reserve.

Economic activity in Boston and the New England region grew at a moderate pace from mid-October to mid-November, and most companies planned to raise wages modestly to remain competitive, according to the Fed’s latest survey of businesses, called the Beige Book.

Unemployment in Massachusetts fell to 3.3 percent in October, the lowest level in more than 15 years, and the shrinking labor pool is causing headaches for some companies. Two manufacturers that participated in the survey said finding hourly workers has become difficult.


Staffing firms said legal, marketing, and medical assistant positions were particularly hard to fill, according to the Federal Reserve report. “Clients recognize that it has become more costly to recruit and secure qualified and experienced candidates.”

Some of the region’s businesses are also beginning to worry that the strong US dollar is dampening sales, as American goods become more expensive to overseas consumers. Boston tourism officials were also uncertain that the region could continue to draw leisure travelers in such large numbers next year.

New flights out of Logan Airport to Asia have helped boost the number of visitors from China and other parts of that continent by 34 percent through the third quarter of 2016. Overall, Logan saw a 19 percent increase in international visitors during the first nine months of this year, compared to 2015, the report said.

Tourism officials, “expressed some uncertainty about whether the strong international travel numbers will continue in 2017, especially for leisure travelers, if the US dollar remains strong against other major currencies,” according to the report.

The nationwide survey found that the economy expanded in most parts of the United States from early October to mid-November.


Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.