Fed says economy grows ‘modestly’ as housing, autos improve

Jobless Rate

The unemployment rate in the U.S. fell to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest since January 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ survey of households. A separate survey of employers showed the economy added 114,000 workers.

Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Dallas said employment was “flat or up slightly, with stagnant demand and uncertainty related to the upcoming presidential election, U.S. fiscal policy, and European debt issues cited by some as a restraining hiring.”

Job openings in the U.S. dropped for a second straight month in August, indicating companies are reluctant to beef up payrolls through year-end without faster economic growth, a Labor Department report showed today.

The number of positions waiting to be filled fell by 32,000 to 3.561 million from a revised 3.593 million the prior month that was less than previously estimated, the Labor Department said today in a statement. Hiring increased at the same time firings rose to a three-month high.

New York

Today’s Beige Book contains information collected on or before Sept. 28 and summarized by the New York Fed.

The report gives policy makers information on the economy before some key government reports issued after a longer lag. For example, the Commerce Department plans to release an estimate of third quarter growth on Oct. 26, after the FOMC meeting.

The economic expansion in the second quarter slowed to 1.3 percent, from 2 percent in the first quarter and 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

The U.S. economy in recent weeks has shown signs of strengthening. Manufacturing expanded in September after three months of contraction, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s factory index. The index rose to 51.5 last month from 49.6 in August, with readings above 50 indicating expansion.

Total U.S. auto sales also outpaced analyst estimates last month, with vehicles selling at an annualized rate of 14.9 million in September, above an estimated 14.5 million.

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