The Beigies: Traffic Jam At The Ports
N. p. r. Everyone stacey here. And i am joined today by our wonderful editor. Patty hirsch he is the thank you for having me. I'm deeply on it. It's an honor to have you will. It's been a very big week. We lot of big stories but of course probably the biggest story is that the The new beige book drop this week for most people around the indicator. This was very big news. And i should explain what is before we get any further about eight times a year. The federal reserve publishes a report about the economy which is called the summary of commentary on current economic conditions. Very long title. Everybody just calls it the beige book because it's covers beige yes. This is the report from the federal reserve bank of the united states. which of course is broken. Up into twelve distinct districts is not just one thing it's twelve things as the federal reserve bank of philadelphia the federal reserve bank of dallas the federal reserve bank of san francisco which represents most of the west and each of these districts contributes a chapter to the beige book. An in these chapters are little collections of anecdotes from businesses and industries. All across the country. Everything from big corporations to mom and pop shops and to get these stories. The economist at these regional banks actually call up local businesses or. Just drop by and say like. Hey what's going on. They call these these businesses they called their contacts and some of the stories that they get from them are so great so good to hear the indicator. We have created an award for favourite beige book. Entry well to the beige awards brought to you by the indicator from planet money. I'm stacey smith. I'm patty hirschson. Today on the show we comb through the economic stories around the country to find the good the bad. I'm the best hope this message comes from. Npr sponsor fund rise making investing in private real estate as easy as investing in stocks bonds or mutual funds build a more diversified portfolio today at fund rise f. u. n. d. r. i s. e. dot com slash indicator. This message comes from npr sponsor salesforce dedicated to helping growing businesses connected their teams share information and automate processes all in a single app. Learn more at salesforce dot com slash. Smb welcome to the beigey awards for the first beige book of twenty twenty one. Now the beige book comes eight times a year so normally the stories. Don't change that much but right now things are moving very fast economy and this latest beige book was super interesting. Yeah and there was actually a real silver lining running through this beige book that we did not see in the last beige book. Most economists and businesses felt like the economy would really start to bounce back towards the end of this year. People are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Yes light at the end of the tunnel but it was also a lot of pain. The travel and tourism industries are decimated restaurants theaters and other businesses a really struggling to survive and one of the observations. That really struck us in. This beige book was something that came to a from the federal bank of minneapolis. A hotel owner in central minnesota. Who'd had to close the hotel pool and stop his breakfast buffet service. He was quoted as saying. Would anybody want to stay yes. There was a lot of pain but there were also some industries that were doing okay and some that were actually flourishing. Exports and imports release stood out for that reason. The san francisco fed in fact reported that shipments of almonds are at record highs. Apparently california's farmers are exporting wheat. And reasons like crazy which brings us to the award. Our favorite anecdote from the beige book. The one that gives us the keenest insight into one part of the economy. The federal reserve bank of boston looks tense. The dallas bet. Economists are holding hands leaning forward in anticipation on the beigey goes to the federal reserve bank of richmond economists sonia rabindranath what dell is accepting the beige. She oversaw richmond's beige book entry. Thank you very much. We're very excited for this award. I mean really on the whole patty. This whole entry from richmond was fantastic but there was one paragraph that really stood out to us release spoke to our hearts it is from the ports and transportation section. Yes if you let me quote shipping. Volumes remains near record highs and were substantially above year ago levels contacts reported increases in furniture toys and produce imports while meat and grains were strong on the export side. One context noted that the rush to get empty containers back to asia for future. Shipments is limiting container availability for exports economic poetry. Right there this beautiful gorgeous. So i ask sonia about this and she actually said this little paragraph tells us a lot about what is going on in the whole economy right now namely the goods are winning and services are really struggling for a couple of years even a decade. There's a lot of discussion about consumers buying fewer goods wanting more experiences. So i think you know in the last year. We've done the exact opposite so to the extent that we were paying money for trips or you know experiences. We've been spending that money on goods right. So we have a large portion of the who can do their jobs from And who have not seen and a hit two income and so who can take the money that they would have spent on the trip that they didn't take and spended on a home improvement or a new couch. This makes sense right because of regulations and state guidelines. And frankly just personal caution. We're really not spending money on services and experiences in the way that we used to eating ice and travel going to the theater getting a massage exercise classes with really not doing that kind of thing so much. yeah and instead. We're spending that money on like stuff. Furniture cookware clothing. Electronics and. Sonia told me that she herself has been living this. I will tell you and your free to put this on the on the radio. I have not gotten a haircut since Twenty twenty nine hundred nine or might have been january of twenty twenty see. It's getting pretty phero back there long. Getting long i used to have bangs. Sonia estimates that she would have gotten a buy three haircuts in a normal year. And you think how much haircut can cost. And instead she got none and so her. She's got plenty of cash to spend nine. She and her husband splurged on an outdoor heater so that the family could hang out in the backyard through the winter. At least that was the plan the or this heater back in november and it still has not arrived and mike. Cohen is pretty sure he knows why it's just a bottleneck. Mike is president of cv international shipping logistics company based in virginia. Right and sonia's district. Mike says the beige book is right on. A bite is industry. Yeah he says the shipping business is booming. We are buying so much stuff. There is not enough room on the ships for everything. And there's not enough room in the ports for all the ships there. Are these big traffic jams. In the port. Ships are floating there for dis just brimming with stuff that people have ordered waiting their turn the increase in volume Came so quickly that You know trucking companies warehouses time to staff up so we have running into a lot of delays sort of in the wild west when it comes to shipping the wild west. Yes prices have gone wild as well. Mike says freight rates or as much as four times what they were a year ago and this frenzy at the ports shows no sign of slowing economists sonia rabindranath idell says this situation also highlights one of the big themes of this beige book and of this recession. Just how divided. The country's economy is all those ships filled with stuff. People are buying. Those people are probably people who still have their jobs who can work from home and whose employment situation and income haven't really changed but then she says there are the millions of people who are unemployed who have not been able to pay rent. Can't afford groceries. People who are losing the businesses that they've built and watching their livelihood just dissolve and sonia says she doesn't expect this to change for a while at least not until the second half of this year hopefully by then she says vaccines will be plentiful and businesses can reopen. We can eat inside again. Go to the movies shake hands. Yeah hopefully life and the news will be a little bit beijinger by then a little bit baiser. Yes indeed but a huge congratulations to sonia and her team at the richmond fed. Like i don't know how does it feel to to win to win obey she. It feels great. Feels so i don't. I don't know that. I have the speechmaking ability as a of halle berry sally field. But but yeah. We're we're really excited about it. And and i wanna say this to you know. In addition to the team that has spent countless hours on the phone and video in the last year. I really need to thank our contacts so we have so. I'm so sorry where we're out of time. Congratulations sonia and we want to thank all of the federal reserve banks across the united states for that fantastic work. Yes see you next time. This episode of the indicated was produced. By dave blanchard in fact check by chantal donya indicators production of npr.