Fed’s Powell: Monetary policy well positioned to support strong labor market

PROVIDENCE (Reuters) – Monetary policy is “well positioned” to support the strong labor market, which is just now starting to benefit workers on the margins, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Monday.

Powell said he has heard stories of employers and schools collaborating to train and hire people with various levels of education and workers with disabilities, according to prepared remarks to be delivered at an annual dinner for the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

“We have heard that many people who in the past struggled to stay in the workforce are now working and adding new and better chapters to their lives,” Powell said in his remarks. “The benefits of the long expansion are only now reaching many communities, and there is plenty of room to build on the impressive gains achieved so far.”

Powell said Fed officials have a favorable outlook for the U.S. economy founded on strong consumer spending, which is bolstered by a robust job market, increasing incomes and solid consumer confidence.

Still, he said weak global growth and trade uncertainty are holding back growth and that policymakers will “respond accordingly” if economic data leads to a “material reassessment” of their economic outlook.

“Policy is not on a preset course,” he said, repeating a frequently used phrase.

Fed officials cut interest rates in October for the third time this year, bringing their target rate to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%. Powell and other policymakers hinted after the reduction that rates were likely to stay put for the foreseeable future, barring a deterioration to the economic outlook.

Earlier on Monday, Powell received a tour of a neighborhood in East Hartford, Connecticut, which recently developed a workplace training program meant to help workers prepare for higher-paying jobs with greater career opportunities.

The program, organized as part of the Working Cities Challenge from the Boston Fed, supports low-income job seekers by helping to pay for transportation, childcare and other living expenses while they take classes on workplace readiness and train for potential roles in manufacturing, tech and other industries.

“At this point in the long expansion, I see the glass as much more than half full,” Powell said in his remarks. “With the right policies, we can fill it further, building on the gains so far and spreading the benefits more broadly to all Americans.”