Community perspectives and conditions from the Fed’s Beige Book, May 2024


Fed Communities Staff

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Federal Reserve Banks across the country collect anecdotes from contacts and hone in on concerns for Federal Reserve Beige Book summaries, published eight times each year. Historically, insights about conditions affecting low- and moderate-income communities have come from the perspective of businesses. Several Reserve Banks began including “Community Conditions” and “Community Perspectives” sections in the fall of 2022. These sections provide insight into local changes through direct accounts of nonprofit and community leaders and workforce professionals serving lower-income people. Here are some takeaways from the May 2024 Beige Book, which was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and based on information collected on or before May 20, 2024.

Please note that the Beige Book summarizes comments received from contacts outside the Federal Reserve and is not a commentary on the views of Federal Reserve officials.

“As the cost of providing services to communities has risen, federal, state, and local governments have responded with an array of grants and subsidies to help defray expenses for communities and populations in need throughout the District. With funds made available from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS Act, and remaining Covid subsidies, these grants and subsidies have been made to cover expenses for homeowners in disadvantaged areas, victims of natural disasters, and to communities in need of infrastructure improvements for utilities and broadband.”
New York Fed, Federal Reserve 2nd District, Community Perspectives

“Affordable housing developers said that demand remained high but that community opposition and difficulty accessing financing were slowing housing production and could shut down some projects in the region. One contact reported that rising housing and food costs negated wage gains for many low-wage and entry-level workers. Moreover, increased housing costs contributed to a recent uptick in delinquent utility bill payments, according to some contacts. In addition, a nonprofit contact observed growth in the entrepreneurship space as people sought access to multiple income streams to cover elevated costs.”
Cleveland Fed, Federal Reserve 4th District, Community Conditions

“Career counselors noted increased competition for available employment opportunities as cost-of-living considerations encouraged more people to re-enter the labor force. Several workforce service providers said that employers adopted more selective hiring processes and extended trial on-boarding periods for prospective employees. Though many workers expressed optimism in their ability to secure employment, contacts shared concerns about the quality of available jobs in terms of flexible hours, paid time off, and compensation sufficient to cover basic expenses. Concerns about household finances remained widespread among nonprofits serving low- and middle-income households. Rising insurance costs were cited as both an immediate financial burden for many individuals and a longer-term threat to economic resiliency as property owners reduced or eliminated coverage due to high costs.”
Atlanta Fed, Federal Reserve 6th District, Community Perspectives

“Community, nonprofit, and small business contacts saw little change in economic activity overall, though activity continued at a solid level. Contacts’ concerns shifted away from cyclical or pandemic-related issues to longer run, slow changing ones. State government officials reported solid tax revenues in line with growth in economic activity. Workforce development intermediaries said that employment opportunities, even for those who face barriers to employment, remained robust. Small business intermediaries again observed that hiring and retention of workers, particularly lower skilled ones, was the primary challenge for small businesses. Nonprofit and social service organizations struggled to right-size in response to decreased revenue as COVID-era funding sunsets, even as demand for services remains high. Contacts noted that many low-income tax filers received smaller refunds this year following the end of some COVID-era tax credits.”
Chicago Fed, Federal Reserve 7th District, Community Conditions

“The availability of jobs for low-wage workers was reportedly high, and contacts indicated the entry-level job market is still tilted in job seekers’ favor. However, a few noted that some employers were bringing back restrictions on hiring such as background checks and drug testing. High prices of vehicles and rising costs of repairs and auto insurance continue to present barriers to work for low-wage workers. Additionally, contacts noted the preponderance of new jobs locating on the fringes of metro areas has made those jobs more difficult to reach for low-to-moderate income households. Contacts noted the benefits of switching jobs lessened considerably for workers, but the tendency to switch jobs for even marginal wage gains remains elevated.”
Kansas City Fed, Federal Reserve 10th District, Community Conditions

“Affordability of housing and of quality childcare remained top concerns for lower-income families over the reporting period. Higher mortgage rates, property taxes, and insurance premiums are driving up costs of single-family homes, and a shortage of landlords willing to accept housing vouchers is affecting apartment availability. One contact noted that higher mortgage rates push middle-income homebuyers to the sidelines, driving up demand for rentals and pricing lower-income residents out of the buyer’s market. Access to quality, affordable childcare continued to impede workforce participation among women in particular. One contact said that industries with shift work struggle to attract women since the work schedule often doesn’t align with childcare hours. Several contacts expressed concern about the winding down of American Rescue Plan Act dollars and whether nonprofits and K-12 schools will be able to sustain certain programs without that funding. Contacts also noted that mental health continues to be a community concern.”
Dallas Fed, Federal Reserve 11th District, Community Perspectives

“Conditions in the community support and services sector worsened somewhat in recent weeks. Demand for mental health services, housing assistance, food assistance, and other related services remained high. Contacts across the District reported more difficulties obtaining funding for nonprofit organizations in recent weeks as government agencies, firms, and individuals scaled back support. Faced with these challenges, nonprofit organizations turned to other funding sources such as offering new fee-based services and drawing down endowments. Reports highlighted that small businesses continued to face challenges covering labor and other business expenses, and some opted to reduce operating hours to reduce costs.”
San Francisco Fed, Federal Reserve 12th District, Community Conditions

Visit the May 2024 Beige Book report for a full national summary and more information about economic conditions from each Reserve Bank, including labor markets, financial services, real estate, and more.