Navigating the Different Signals from Inflation and Unemployment
Governor Lael Brainard
Federal Reserve, May 30, 2017
At the NY Association for Business Economics
For the first time in many years, we are seeing signs of synchronized economic expansions at home and abroad, and the balance of risks globally has become more positive. Recent data suggest that the underlying momentum of the domestic expansion remains solid. While U.S. consumption was weak in the first quarter of 2017, the data so far are consistent with a rebound in the current quarter. Moreover, financial conditions remain supportive of continued economic expansion despite some recent volatility.1
The ongoing progress in bringing Americans back into productive employment is especially heartening. With continued strength in the labor market, economic activity regaining momentum, and a brighter outlook abroad, it would be appropriate soon to see the federal funds rate moving closer to its neutral level. If the economy evolves in line with the March Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) median path, normalization of the federal funds rate is likely to be well underway before too long, setting the stage for a gradual and predictable running off of the balance sheet.
Even so, I see some tension between signs that the economy is in the neighborhood of full employment and indications that the tentative progress we had seen on inflation may be slowing. If the tension between the progress on employment and the lack of progress on inflation persists, it may lead me to reassess the expected path of the federal funds rate in the future, although it is premature to make that call today.