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Powell Says Economy May Be Entering ‘New Normal’ After Pandemic

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(Bloomberg) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the US economy may be entering a “new normal” following disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“We continue to deal with an exceptionally unusual set of disruptions,” Powell told business and community leaders Friday at a Fed Listens event in Washington.

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In his brief welcoming marks, Powell didn’t discuss the outlook for interest rates or offer more specifics on the economic outlook.

US central bankers raised their benchmark lending rate by three quarters of a percentage points this week for a third straight time — the most aggressive pace of tightening seen since the Fed battled inflation back in the 1980s.

Powell and his colleagues are moving rapidly to reduce the highest inflation in nearly 40 years after being slow to spot the threat of broadening price pressures. Critics have slammed them for that error, although inflation has also been worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which boosted food and energy prices around the world.

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US consumer prices rose 8.3% in the 12 months through August and officials have vowed to cool them even if that means causing harm to the US economy and its workers. 

Officials couch this as an effort to slow excess demand and put the labor market back into “balance” — a euphemism that glosses over the fact many people could lose their jobs in the process. The labor market has so far remained remained strong, with unemployment at 3.7%, but policy makers this week forecast that would rise to around 4.4% next year as they continue to raise interest rates.

Fed Listens events have been held around the US since 2019 as the central bank sought public input on a review of its approach to monetary policy. That overhaul was completed in 2021 but the Fed has kept them going to maintain public engagement at a time when its actions remain front-page news.

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