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Fed Sees An Expanding Economy; Check How Its Language Has Changed

Eight times a year the Federal Reserve releases "beige book" reports about how the economy is doing. Named for the traditional color of their covers and based on reports from the central bank's 12 districts, they're largely anecdotal and full of generalizations about what businesses leaders and others are saying about current conditions.

Today, The Associated Press says, the new beige book released by the Fed seemed to indicate there's been "a slight improvement" since the previous report, which was released in September.

With anything written by the Fed or said by its policymakers, every word is carefully considered and gets carefully parsed. We thought it might be interesting to zero in on just the first sentence — the lede, so to speak — in the latest reports. We've highlighted some key words. See if you think there's been any change in tone:

Today: "Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicate that overall economic activity continued to expand in September, although many Districts described the pace of growth as 'modest' or 'slight' and contacts generally noted weaker or less certain outlooks for business conditions."

Sept. 7: "Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity continued to expand at a modest pace, though some Districts noted mixed or weakening activity."

July 27: "Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity continued to grow; however, the pace has moderated in many Districts."

June 8: "Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity generally continued to expand since the last report, though a few Districts indicated some deceleration."

April 13: "Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity generally continued to improve since the last report."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott
Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.