(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Susan Collins, in her first public speech since taking office, said additional tightening is needed to rein in stubbornly high inflation and cautioned the process will require some job losses.
“Returning inflation to target will require further tightening of monetary policy, as signaled in the recent FOMC projections,” Collins said Monday in remarks prepared for an event with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. “It will be important to see clear and convincing signs that inflation is falling.”
Collins, the first Black woman to lead a regional Fed bank, is a voter this year on the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.
Fed officials raised interest rates by 75 basis points last week for the third straight meeting, bringing the target for the benchmark federal funds rate to a range of 3% to 3.25%. Median projections show officials forecast that rates would reach 4.4% by the end of this year and 4.6% in 2023, a more hawkish shift in their so-called dot plot than anticipated.
The projections imply another 125 basis points of tightening this year, a sign that policy makers are continuing their aggressive tightening campaign as they attempt to tame the hottest inflation in a generation. But Fed Chair Jerome Powell, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said no decisions were made on the size of future rate increases and emphasized that a fairly large group of officials preferred to only lift rates by a percentage point by year end.
Collins, who took office in July, did not specify how much more tightening she thinks is required to control inflation, which she said “remains too high.” US consumer prices rose 8.3% in the 12 months through August.
Powell and other officials acknowledge that their efforts to cool prices could cause pain for businesses and households, including job losses. The labor market has so far remained strong, with unemployment at 3.7%, but policy makers forecast that’ll rise to around 4.4% next year.
Collins nodded to those risks on Monday, pointing out that disadvantaged workers could suffer even more.
“I do anticipate that accomplishing price stability will require slower employment growth and a somewhat higher unemployment rate,” Collins said. “And I take very seriously that unemployment is painful, and that its costs have been disproportionately concentrated among groups that have traditionally been marginalized.”
Still, she said businesses and households have strong balance sheets, which may lower the odds of a significant pullback in spending and investment as interest rates rise. Collins also said that because many businesses are short staffed, slower growth could have a smaller effect on employment.
It may still be possible for the Fed to achieve a “softish landing,” where demand slows to come into better balance with supply but there is only a moderate increase in unemployment, she said.
“I do believe that we can achieve this, but I think it’s important to recognize that there are risks on both sides,” Collins said in the question-and-answer portion of the event. She also said she thinks inflation may have peaked or is nearing a peak.
Collins joined the Boston Fed after 15 years at the University of Michigan, where she most recently served as provost and previously as dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. The Fed post offered a return to Boston for Collins, who earned a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received her bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University.
(Updates from the third paragraph with more context and Collins’s comments on the economy)
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.