According to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, national economic activity continued to expand in late February and March, though the pace of growth varied across districts.

Manufacturing activity increased in most districts while construction and real estate activity also expanded. In addition, credit conditions improved, on net, in most districts.

However, low prices weighed on energy and mining output as well as prospects for agricultural producers. Overall, prices increased modestly across the majority of districts, and input cost pressures continued to ease.

Labor market conditions continued to strengthen in late February and March, although growth in employment at financial firms was subdued in New York and employment declined in Cleveland. Manufacturing payrolls rose in Boston, Richmond and Atlanta, but fell in Philadelphia and Cleveland. Meanwhile, energy companies continued to reduce their workforces, with reports of layoffs coming from nearly half of the 12 districts.

Business spending and capital spending generally expanded across most districts, while transportation activity rose moderately as seven firms reported an increase in freight volumes. However, for districts that did not report decreases in freight volumes, ongoing softness in the energy and steal sectors were cited as the major factors.

Credit conditions improved, on net, in most districts, with the exception of Dallas where contacts indicated that the lending outlook remained cautious. Overall, the lending environment remained competitive.