The US economy grew at a "modest to moderate" pace in recent weeks, with the housing market and construction improving nationwide, the Federal Reserve said in a report Wednesday.

Most of the Fed's 12 districts reported a pickup in manufacturing, consumer spending and auto sales, while hiring that "held steady or increased at a measured pace," the Beige Book report said.

"Residential real estate and construction activity increased at a moderate to strong pace in all reporting districts," said the report, which is used by Fed policymakers to frame monetary policy decisions.

The report, based on anecdotal information gathered in the central bank's 12 districts, is published eight times a year roughly two weeks ahead of Federal Open Market Committee meetings.

Since the publication of the last Beige Book, on June 5, banking conditions generally improved, it said.

Some contacts noted a "reluctance to hire permanent or full-time workers," the report said.

The Fed has made the reduction of high unemployment, which stood at 7.6 percent last month, a top priority in its stimulus program to spur growth.

US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated Wednesday that the Fed stimulus could be wound down next year if economic growth remains steady as forecast.

With unemployment still high and falling slowly and inflation very low, he said, "a highly accommodative monetary policy will remain appropriate for the foreseeable future."