US Fed official warns against inflation ‘ghost stories’

20 September, 2020 12:00 AM printer

WASHINGTON: The Federal Reserve has been too cautious in its recent policy shift allowing higher prices to boost employment, one US central banker said Friday, warning against heeding “ghost stories” about inflation.

As the United States faces the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreak and is approaching 200,000 deaths, tens of millions of workers still have not returned to their jobs and the unemployment rate, though down from its peak, is at 8.4 percent, more than double the pre-pandemic level, reports AFP.

The Fed on Friday released a survey showing only 30 percent of workers who were laid off early in the crisis have returned to work, while 22 percent do not expect to return to their jobs.

Neel Kashkari, president of the Fed’s Minneapolis branch, dissented from the Fed’s decision Wednesday, which pledged to allow inflation to rise above 2 percent “for some time” to achieve the central bank’s goal of maximum employment.

The statement reflects the policy shift first announced by Fed Chair Jerome Powell in August, but Kashkari said the Fed should have made a “stronger commitment to not raising rates until we were certain to have achieved” the full employment objective.

He stressed that economists and central bankers have long been proven wrong in their concerns about the threat of low joblessness sparking higher prices. And if the new policy had been in place in 2012, the Fed would have delayed increasing the benchmark lending rate by at least a year and allowed even greater employment gains, he said. Official payroll data show only half of the more than 22 million workers who lost jobs in March and April have returned to work. The Fed’s household survey released Friday showed the greatest share of layoffs during the pandemic hit families earning less than $40,000 a year, at 28 percent, while half of all people laid off were either Black or Hispanic.