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MNI: Fed's Powell to Testify Omicron Poses Downside Risks

MNI (Washington)
MNI (WASHINGTON)

Chair Powell says labor market slack is diminishing.

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The Omicron variant poses downside risks to employment and economic activity and increased inflation uncertainty, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will tell Congress Tuesday.

"Greater concerns about the virus could reduce people’s willingness to work in person, which would slow progress in the labor market and intensify supply-chain disruptions," Powell said in prepared testimony for the U.S. Senate Banking Committee.

While Powell did not directly address the outlook for monetary policy, the Chair said there is still ground to cover to reach maximum employment for both employment and labor force participation, and "we expect progress to continue."

"Most forecasters, including at the Fed, continue to expect that inflation will move down significantly over the next year as supply and demand imbalances abate," he said. "It is difficult to predict the persistence and effects of supply constraints, but it now appears that factors pushing inflation upward will linger well into next year."

"In addition, with the rapid improvement in the labor market, slack is diminishing, and wages are rising at a brisk pace," the Chair said. "October saw job growth of 531,000, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, indicating a rebound in the pace of labor market improvement," he added.