Harsh winter hits economy

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)–Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is blaming a harsh winter for the weak economy.

Yellen said frigid temperatures, along with rising mortgage rates, may have contributed to January’s low consumer spending.

Yellen told Congress Thursday they will be watching the numbers closely to see if the economic slowdown is only a temporary thing caused by this season’s severe winter weather.

Across the country, this has been the snowiest winter nationally in four years, and the coldest in three years.

Here in Western Massachusetts, we picked up roughly 28″ of snow in February; that’s more than double the average snowfall for the month.

Our average high for February was about 31 degrees:  four degrees colder than the average.

Restaurant employees in Western Mass. told 22News fewer people come into the restaurant to eat on the bitterly cold nights, but that more people get delivery orders.

One area of business that seems to be benefiting from all this cold is travel.

The website jetsetter.com found that the number of hotel bookings in warm-weather spots made by customers from Illinois, New York, Massachusetts and the Washington, D.C., rose 7 percent in January compared to the same time last year.  Some of the popular warm-weather destinations people are escaping to are California, Arizona and Florida.

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