Although the labor markets have been improving the nation has yet to reach maximum employment, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Lockhart said Monday.
"The recovery has been under way for more than four years now. Unemployment at its peak reached 10 percent," Lockhart said in a speech in new York, according to prepared text released by the Fed. "The official unemployment rate now stands at 7.3 percent-somewhat higher than the 5.3 to 6 percent range that many economists have historically referred to as 'full employment.' We've made a lot of progress, but there's a way to go before the Fed can claim that the maximum employment objective has been achieved."
Even in the past 12 months, he noted "significant progress" as the jobless rate dropped to 7.3% from 8.1% and 2.2 million jobs have been added. However, the average number of jobs added seems to have slowed somewhat in the past three months.
Furthermore, he said, the gains have come "in spite of rather weak economic growth. Over the 17 quarters of recovery since the recession ended, gross domestic product (GDP) growth has averaged a little above 2.2 percent. This is a lackluster pace of growth, and the progress we're enjoying on the jobs front makes sense only in the presence of low labor productivity growth. That, in fact, is the reality. Labor productivity growth is averaging significantly below historic norms."
Lockhart said, "policymakers can try to remove obstacles to growth and entrepreneurship-obstacles such as policies that discourage new business formation and disincentives to invest." Also, he called for "positive, pro-growth actions that address economic fundamentals, such as investment in human capital and critical, productive infrastructure."
Also, he noted, "Monetary policy can help deliver appropriately favorable interest rate conditions that can promote a faster economic recovery, always in a context of low and stable inflation. Monetary policy can also play a critical role in creating the most favorable conditions for other policy actions to do their work."