WASHINGTON — For the first time this year, the economy slowed in several U.S. regions this spring. High gas prices weakened consumer spending, and the Japan crises reduced manufacturing output.

Four of the 12 Federal Reserve bank regions suffered slower growth in April and May, compared with earlier this year, a Federal Reserve survey said today. Nationwide, the U.S. economy faltered in May. Hiring slowed, orders to factories declined, and home prices fell.

The report helped to confirm a slew of reports that point to an economy growing more slowly than at the end of last year.

Fed banks in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago said the pace of growth slowed. Boston, Cleveland, Richmond, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and San Francisco said growth continued at a steady pace.

The Dallas region was the only one to report accelerating growth, mostly because of higher oil prices that benefited the energy industry.

The report, known as the “Beige Book,” is based on anecdotal information gathered by officials at the Fed regional banks from their business contacts. It is released eight times a year and provides a more in-the-trenches look at the U.S. economy.