Boston’s Beige Book: A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Published October 20, 2010

It’s time again to talk about the important book with the boring name — The Beige Book.

BOOM! I redesigned the Beige Book logo.

BOOM! I redesigned the Beige Book logo.

Basically, the Federal Reserve interviews a whole bunch of companies and compiles a Zagat-style guide to the economy eight times a year. The last book, released in September, was mostly optimistic about New England.

This time around, the Fed reports “more of the same” — nothing to write home about, but not bad. The report released this afternoon does say economic activity in Boston is stronger than at this time last year.

You can pluck out the key details from the opening paragraph:

  • “Retailers cite somewhat more positive results than they did six weeks ago.”
  • “Manufacturers report continued growth, although some at a slower pace recently than in the first half of the year.”
  • “Commercial real estate markets remain in the doldrums.”
  • “Sales of residential properties remain below year-earlier levels.”
  • “Hiring among retail, manufacturing, and consulting firms remains limited.”

The survey said seven of the Fed’s 12 regions reported moderate economic improvement — an improvement since last month, when Cleveland was the only other growth region, besides New England.

WBUR’s Curt Nickisch tells me that nationwide momentum could give Massachusetts a lift. Why? Boston exports a lot of goods and services to other states. We need to see strong recovery in those other states to keep the orders rolling in.

In other words, a rising tide lifts all boats.

Update: I’m so sick of the piddling little Beige Book graphic that I have designed my own logo, which is featured above.