The U.S. economy expanded modestly in the first two months of the year and sentiment among business owners is picking up as vaccinations bolstered the prospects for economic growth, the Federal Reserve said.
"Most businesses remain optimistic regarding the next six to 12 months as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely distributed," according to the Beige Book based on information collected by the Fed's 12 regional banks through Feb. 22.
Economic prospects have brightened as the daily count of COVID-19 cases has fallen to the lowest in more than four months. More than a dozen states posted fewer than 100 new cases per million residents — most of those in the West and Midwest.
Company payrolls rose by 117,000 during the past month, or far less than economist estimates, according to ADP Research Institute data released Wednesday. The data precede Friday's monthly jobs report from the Labor Department, which is forecast to show that private payrolls increased by 200,000 in February.