The Federal Reserve said the U.S. economy expanded moderately in January through mid-February as hiring picked up a bit across several districts.
Residential real estate market conditions improved somewhat in most areas, an anecdotal report on business activity. Hiring increased slightly across several areas of the country.
Manufacturing appeared to be a bright spot, with many reporting rises in new orders, shipments or production, and several pointing to more robust investment spending.
The jobless rate has fallen to 8.3 percent from around 9 percent last summer .
The decline in the unemployment rate over the past year has been more rapid than was been expected, given that the economy appears to have been growing during that time frame at or below its longer-term trend
U.S. economic growthfor the fourth quarter was revised up to 3 percent on Wednesday, but forecasters see the first quarter's rate coming in closer to 2 percent.
Fed officials have been debating another possible round of monetary stimulus through bond purchases, but some improvement in the outlook in recent weeks has dampened the prospect for such action.
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