Federal Reserve Chairman Speaks on the Economy

By June 7, 2011Economy

This afternoon Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke at the International Monetary Conference in Atlanta on the economic outlook.

In his speech Bernanke notes what we’ve been seeing the past few weeks — commodity prices continue to impact the economy. He also mentions that he expects hiring to pick up from last month’s slow growth.

Here are a few excerpts about job creation and manufacturing from today’s speech:

Although the jobs market remains quite weak and progress has been uneven, overall we have seen signs of gradual improvement. For example, private-sector payrolls increased at an average rate of about 180,000 per month over the first five months of this year, compared with less than 140,000 during the last four months of 2010 and less than 80,000 per month in the four months prior to that. As I noted, however, recent indicators suggest some loss of momentum, with last Friday’s jobs market report showing an increase in private payrolls of just 83,000 in May. I expect hiring to pick up from last month’s pace as growth strengthens in the second half of the year, but, again, the recent data highlight the need to continue monitoring the jobs situation carefully.

The business sector generally presents a more upbeat picture. Capital spending on equipment and software has continued to expand, reflecting an improving sales outlook and the need to replace aging capital. Many U.S. firms, notably in manufacturing but also in services, have benefited from the strong growth of demand in foreign markets. Going forward, investment and hiring in the private sector should be facilitated by the ongoing improvement in credit conditions.

Wrapping up his remarks Chairman Bernanke states that the economy is still producing below its potential:

Although it is moving in the right direction, the economy is still producing at levels well below its potential; consequently, accommodative monetary policies are still needed. Until we see a sustained period of stronger job creation, we cannot consider the recovery to be truly established. At the same time, the longer-run health of the economy requires that the Federal Reserve be vigilant in preserving its hard-won credibility for maintaining price stability.

Additional coverage of the speech: (“Bernanke Says Recovery Remains ‘Uneven’“, Wall Street Journal)

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