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The Fed’s Report to the Congress, July 12, 2017 – The labor market has continued to strengthen

Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress (July 12, 2017) 

Chair Janet L. Yellen (Before the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.)

Chairman Hensarling, Ranking Member Waters, and other members of the Committee, I am pleased to present the Federal Reserve’s semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress. In my remarks today I will briefly discuss the current economic situation and outlook before turning to monetary policy.

Current Economic Situation and Outlook

Since my appearance before this committee in February, the labor market has continued to strengthen. Job gains have averaged 180,000 per month so far this year, down only slightly from the average in 2016 and still well above the pace we estimate would be sufficient, on average, to provide jobs for new entrants to the labor force. Indeed, the unemployment rate has fallen about 1/4 percentage point since the start of the year, and, at 4.4 percent in June, is 5‑1/2 percentage points below its peak in 2010 and modestly below the median of Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) participants’ assessments of its longer-run normal level. The labor force participation rate has changed little, on net, this year–another indication of improving conditions in the jobs market, given the demographically driven downward trend in this series. A broader measure of labor market slack that includes workers marginally attached to the labor force and those working part time who would prefer full-time work has also fallen this year and is now nearly as low as it was just before the recession. It is also encouraging that jobless rates have continued to decline for most major demographic groups, including for African Americans and Hispanics. However, as before the recession, unemployment rates for these minority groups remain higher than for the nation overall.

Meanwhile, the economy appears to have grown at a moderate pace, on average, so far this year. Although inflation-adjusted gross domestic product is currently estimated to have increased at an annual rate of only 1-1/2 percent in the first quarter, more-recent indicators suggest that growth rebounded in the second quarter. In particular, growth in household spending, which was weak earlier in the year, has picked up in recent months and continues to be supported by job gains, rising household wealth, and favorable consumer sentiment. In addition, business fixed investment has turned up this year after having been soft last year. And a strengthening in economic growth abroad has provided important support for U.S. manufacturing production and exports. The housing market has continued to recover gradually, aided by the ongoing improvement in the labor market and mortgage rates that, although up somewhat from a year ago, remain at relatively low levels.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at The Fed – Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress

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