Fed Chair Sets Stage for Longer Periods of Lower Rates

Under Mr. Powell’s leadership, the Fed has increasingly emphasized the benefits of that strong labor market, which pulled long-sidelined workers into jobs and helped to foster strong wage growth for those who earn the least. The update bookends that evolution toward greater patience and more tolerance — or even encouragement — of historically- low unemployment.

The long-run document promises that the central bank will continue to hold reviews, roughly every five years, and will continue to consult the public as it has done over the past year through its “Fed Listens” events. That could help it to deal with the challenges of very low interest rates as the economy moves forward, and it will keep the public in the loop about how the Fed is approaching its targets.

“Public faith in large institutions around the world is under pressure,” Mr. Powell said in a question-and-answer session following his speech. “Institutions like the Fed have to aggressively seek transparency and accountability to preserve our democratic legitimacy.”

The Fed also explicitly noted in its statement that financial stability ranks among its key goals. In recent decades, expansions have ended when asset price bubbles — like the mid-2000s housing boom — got out of control, rather than at the hands of too-high inflation.

“Sustainably achieving maximum employment and price stability depends on a stable financial system,” the Fed said in its statement. “Therefore, the committee’s policy decisions reflect its longer-run goals, its medium-term outlook, and its assessments of the balance of risks, including risks to the financial system that could impede the attainment of the committee’s goals.”

Mr. Powell’s remarks, and the central bank’s shift, are set against an unhappy backdrop.

Fed officials have taken action to support the economy as the pandemic-induced downturn drags on — cutting interest rates to zero, buying government-backed bonds in vast sums, and rolling out emergency lending programs. Still, more than one million people filed initial state jobless claims last week, data released Thursday morning showed.

The Fed has repeatedly emphasized that a strong job market and economy is an imperative goal, but that Congress will need to help achieve it.

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