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The economy showed continued signs of modest improvement in recent months, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday in its latest snapshot of regional economic conditions. Economic activity increased or held steady in 10 of the central bank’s 12 districts, according to the July edition of the Fed’s so-called Beige Book report. The exceptions were Atlanta and Chicago, which reported slowdowns. Districts noted better conditions in the services sector, with increases in the freight transportation industry and at consulting firms. The Fed said most of the districts also welcomed a rise in manufacturing activity, though the pace slowed or leveled off in half of the districts. Retail sales were a bright spot, suggesting a continued rise in consumer spending. Several districts said that necessities like clothes and food continued to be strong sellers, while big-ticket items moved more slowly. The report showed auto sales fell during the period since the last report in early June. Most districts said the overall labor market gradually improved during the early summer months, citing an increase in temporary hiring. Boston and Dallas, however, said the job market held steady. Gains in Dallas were offset by significant layoffs in the energy sector due to the deepwater drilling moratorium following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.