U.S. Adds 136,000 Jobs in September, Jobless Rate Falls to 3.5%
The U.S. economy is in a good place though it faces some risks, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Friday in a brief speech that didn’t go into detail on the outlook for growth or interest rates.
“Unemployment is near a half-century low, and inflation is running close to, but a bit below, our 2 per cent objective,” he said in the text of opening remarks to a “Fed Listens” event in Washington. “Our job is to keep it there as long as possible.”
Powell spoke after release of a mixed jobs report that showed payrolls growth slowing last month even as the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since 1969.
Coming on the heels of downbeat surveys of company purchasing managers, the jobs numbers damped fears of an imminent recession and provided a lift to the stock market.
While Powell didn’t specifically mention Friday’s employment report in his speech, he did speak of “the importance of sustaining our historically strong job market,” noting that many more Americans are benefiting as a result.
“While not everyone fully shares economic opportunities and the economy faces some risks, overall it is -- as I like to say -- in a good place,” the Fed chairman said.
The Fed has cut interest rates twice this year to shelter the U.S. economy from weak global growth and trade-policy uncertainty. Traders in federal funds futures are betting that the central bank will reduce rates again at its Oct. 29-30 meeting.
Powell gave no clear steer on the future path of rates in his remarks, which were mostly devoted to the Fed’s longer-term strategic review of its policies and practices.
As part of that examination, the central bank is holding a series of “Fed Listens” events to gather opinions from academics, community organizers, companies and others about what it should do.
“In this review, we are examining strategies that might better allow us to symmetrically and sustainably achieve 2 per cent inflation,” Powell said. “Doing so would help prevent inflation expectations among consumers, businesses, and investors from slipping too low, as they appear to have done in several advanced economies.”
While asking questions to panelists at the event, the Fed chair said he would like to see inflation move higher to consistently meet the central bank’s 2% target.
“We actually want inflation to be a little bit higher,” he said. “To be clear, we are looking for it to be just a little bit higher,” and not "sliding down” like in some other places in the world, Powell said.