Just before the Brexit Janet L. Yellen, US Fed chief said in a Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress in the presence of Chairman Shelby, Ranking Member Brown, and other members of the Committee & discussed the current economic situation and outlook before turning to monetary policy for the US.
The economy has made further progress toward the Federal Reserve's objective of maximum employment. And while inflation has continued to run below our 2 percent objective, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) expects inflation to rise to that level over the medium term. However, the pace of improvement in the labor market appears to have slowed more recently, suggesting that our cautious approach to adjusting monetary policy remains appropriate.
In the labor market, the cumulative increase in jobs since its trough in early 2010 has now topped 14 million, while the unemployment rate has fallen more than 5 percentage points from its peak. In addition, as we detail in the Monetary Policy Report, jobless rates have declined for all major demographic groups, including for African Americans and Hispanics.
During the first quarter of this year, job gains averaged 200,000 per month, just a bit slower than last year's pace. And while the unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent over this period, the labor force participation rate moved up noticeably.
Economic growth has been uneven over recent quarters. U.S. inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) is currently estimated to have increased at an annual rate of only 3/4 percent in the first quarter of this year. Subdued foreign growth and the appreciation of the dollar weighed on exports, while the energy sector was hard hit by the steep drop in oil prices since mid-2014; in addition, business investment outside of the energy sector was surprisingly weak.
However, the available indicators point to a noticeable step-up in GDP growth in the second quarter. In particular, consumer spending has picked up smartly in recent months, supported by solid growth in real disposable income and the ongoing effects of the increases in household wealth. And housing has continued to recover gradually, aided by income gains and the very low level of mortgage rates.
Yellen said, “Of course, considerable uncertainty about the economic outlook remains. Domestic demand might falter. In addition, although I am optimistic about the longer-run prospects for the U.S. economy, we cannot rule out the possibility expressed by some prominent economists that the slow productivity growth seen in recent years will continue into the future.
Vulnerabilities in the global economy also remain. Although concerns about slowing growth in China and falling commodity prices appear to have eased from earlier this year, China continues to face considerable challenges as it rebalances its economy toward domestic demand and consumption and away from export-led growth.More generally, in the current environment of sluggish growth, low inflation, and already very accommodative monetary policy in many advanced economies, investor perceptions of and appetite for risk can change abruptly.