Fed's Beige Book bears bad news along with signs of stabilization

The Federal Reserve says the economy isn't shrinking as fast as it was earlier this year or is now holding steady "at a low level" in most parts of the country. Still, finding genuinely good news in the economic snapshot, known as "the Beige Book," isn't always easy.

Hiring was "extremely soft" across the country, retail sales were "sluggish" and commercial real estate markets slumped further or remained depressed in most areas. Five of the twelve Fed districts said described their local economy as "slow," "weak" or "subdued."