The sluggish recovery failed to gain any speed in recent weeks and softened in some areas with factory activity sputtering and retail sales under pressure, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.

Economic activity continued to expand at a modest pace, though some Districts noted mixed or weakening activity, the Fed said in its Beige Book collection of anecdotal reports of economic conditions in the 12 Fed districts.

Growth was modest or slight in five districts through late August, while the remaining seven described activity in terms such as very subdued or more slowly. In the Fed's last Beige Book covering the period into early July, eight regions characterized growth as having slowed.

A steady drip of news suggesting the weak recovery is stalling is pushing the Fed closer to a further easing of monetary policy. Some analysts think the U.S. central bank could take action at its next meeting on September 20-21.

A report on Friday showed employers added no new jobs on net in August, leaving the unemployment rate stuck at a lofty 9.1 percent more than two years after the end of the recession.

The Beige Book, which was prepared for the next Fed meeting, said consumer spending increased in most districts, but spending on items besides cars was flat or down in several places. Manufacturing conditions were mixed across the country and had slowed in many districts, the central bank said.

Hard-hit residential real estate markets remained weak overall. A separate report on Wednesday showed demand for U.S. home loans fell for a third straight week last week although mortgage rates fell to or near record lows.

The Fed said price pressures edged lower in recent weeks, although retail prices rose in some districts. Labor markets were generally stable and some districts reported modest gains.

(Editing by Andrea Ricci)