WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Most Federal Reserve districts reported that firms' outlooks remained positive, but "optimism has waned," as COVID-19 cases continue to spike, the U.S. Fed said in its latest Beige Book released on Wednesday.
Most Federal Reserve districts have characterized economic expansion as "modest" or "moderate" in recent weeks, the Fed said.
"Four Districts described little or no growth, and five narratives noted that activity remained below pre-pandemic levels for at least some sectors," the Fed said.
Philadelphia and three of the four Midwestern districts observed that activity began to slow in early November as COVID-19 cases surged, according to the Beige Book.
Noting that most districts reported that firms' outlooks remained positive, the Fed said "optimism has waned."
"Many contacts cited concerns over the recent pandemic wave, mandated restrictions (recent and prospective), and the looming expiration dates for unemployment benefits and for moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures," the Fed said.
On employment, nearly all districts reported that employment rose, but for most, the pace was slow, at best, and the recovery remained "incomplete," the Fed said, adding that firms that were hiring continued to report difficulties in attracting and retaining workers.
Many contacts noted that the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases had precipitated more school and plant closings and renewed fears of infection, which have further aggravated labor supply problems, including absenteeism and attrition, according to the central bank.
The Beige Book, published eight times per year, contains economic reports from 12 Federal Reserve districts, each of which is monitored by a regional Federal Reserve Bank.