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Associated Press
Donna Boulanger, right, looks over her résumé before speaking with Colleen Kingsbury of Travizon at a job fair in Boston.

Fed survey points to growth

March pullback appears to be a temporary issue

– A Federal Reserve survey of business conditions across the United States suggests last month’s pullback in hiring may be temporary.

The survey released Wednesday showed that each of the Fed’s 12 bank districts grew steadily from mid-February through April 2. And hiring was stable or increased throughout most of the country, according to the survey.

The Labor Department last week said that job creation slowed in March to half the pace from the previous three months. But the Fed survey, which is anecdotal, didn’t reflect the weakening.

“I didn’t see any companies say that they’re scaling back sharply on hiring because demand is slowing,” said John Canally, an economist at LPL Financial.

The survey, known as the Beige Book, suggests that the hiring trend is somewhere between the roughly 250,000 jobs added per month over the winter and the 120,000 created in March, Canally said.

The Beige Book is released eight times a year and is based on surveys by the Fed’s 12 regional banks. There are no numbers in the report. But its findings, which are released two weeks before the Fed’s policy meeting, help influence the discussions.

When the Fed meets April 24-25, members are expected to stick with their plan to hold short-term interest rates at record lows until at least late 2014. They will likely point to the slower hiring pace in March as evidence that the economy still needs support.

The Beige Book offered a brighter outlook for the coming months. Job gains occurred in manufacturing, shipping, information technology and professional business services, the survey noted.

Consumers are still spending. Retail sales increased in almost all districts, the report said. And four districts said the short-term outlook for retail spending is positive.

The housing market showed improvement in most areas. Developers built more apartments. And banks said demand for loans increased.

“The report was generally positive, with widespread optimism about manufacturing and an encouraging outlook for household spending,” Dana Saporta, an economist at Credit Suisse, said in a note to clients.

But the survey cautioned that the economy and job market are far from recovered.