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Contact: Patti Lorenzen
Media Representative
612-204-5261
Patti.Lorenzen@mpls.frb.org

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Minneapolis Fed Forecasts Continued Expansion In The Ninth District Economy For 2006

MINNEAPOLIS, December 15, 2005—The economy in the Ninth Federal Reserve District is expected to continue expanding in 2006, despite concerns about higher energy and materials prices, and a likely slowing in home building and residential real estate. The Ninth District includes Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, northwestern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis announced the regional economic outlook for 2006 during a media briefing today at the Minneapolis Fed. This forecast includes information from the Minneapolis Fed's statistical forecasting models, results from the fedgazette's annual business conditions outlook poll of 345 district business leaders, a survey of 474 district manufacturers conducted by the Minneapolis Fed and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, and a survey of 113 district agricultural lenders.

Employment
The outlook for labor markets in 2006 is positive, reflecting expectations for increased economic growth. The strongest growth is expected in Montana, while the slowest growth is expected in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. District business leaders indicate that labor markets are tightening. While a majority of respondents to the poll expect to increase employment at their companies, many are beginning to indicate difficulty finding qualified workers. Hiring in the services, manufacturing and construction sectors will expand. In contrast, the agriculture and retail sectors anticipate decreases in employment levels.

Unemployment
In most district states, unemployment rates will stay about the same in 2006 as in 2005. Rates are anticipated to decrease slightly in Montana from 2005 levels, remain flat in South Dakota, and increase slightly in the other states. Wage growth of 3 percent or below is expected throughout the district. Personal income should post healthy growth in 2006, a positive sign for consumer spending.

Prices
Increases in energy and materials prices have several business leaders concerned about their souring effect on profits and the overall economy. Poll respondents expect input prices to increase in 2006, and most plan to pass those increases on to their customers in the form of higher selling prices.

Real Estate
Housing markets will likely cool somewhat during 2006, but will likely not go into a deep freeze. Commercial real estate and construction activity are showing signs of strengthening.

Manufacturing
The manufacturing sector is expected to be solid in 2006. Manufacturers expect robust gains in sales and plan to add employees and increase investment in plant and equipment.

Agriculture
The district agricultural sector saw increases in total production of corn, soybeans and wheat in 2005. The preliminary outlook for growing conditions in 2006 is positive. District farmers and ranchers received decent prices for commodities in 2005 and expect solid prices for 2006. However, there is a deep concern over the increases in input costs, especially fertilizer and fuel. Larger revenues are expected in 2006, but profits may be suppressed by higher costs.

Articles published in the January 2006 fedgazette:
District economic expansion to continue in 2006
District business leaders expect modest overall growth in 2006
Manufacturing: On the up and up
Despite large harvest, ag lenders worry

The forecast in detail, including state-by-state forecasts:
Ninth District Economic Forecast


As one of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis contributes to a variety of Federal Reserve System functions, including operation of a nationwide payments system, distribution of the nation's currency and coin, supervision and regulation of member banks and bank holding companies, and serving as a fiscal agent for the U.S. Treasury. Additionally, the president of Minneapolis Fed serves as a member of the Federal Open Market Committee, the monetary policymaking arm of the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors. Together with its branch in Helena, Mont., the Minneapolis Fed serves the Ninth Federal Reserve District, which includes Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota, 26 counties in northwestern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

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