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Monetary Policy in a Surrealistic Economy

Bloomberg (08/15/14) Victoria Stilwell; Jeff Kearns

Although the number of workers filing claims for unemployment benefits is at the lowest level since 1967, the number of long-term unemployed is larger than at any time prior to the 2007-09 recession. On the one hand, this means U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen is behind the curve given that monetary policy from the recession era remains in place, but on the other hand, it appears the central bank’s near-zero interest rates are responsible for modest gains during a fragile recovery.

As a result, experts are divided as to when the Fed should start raising rates for the first time since 2006. While Yellen says policy makers need to be sure the economy is on a solid footing before raising rates, most Fed officials expect the benchmark rate will need to be increased at some point in 2015. Strengthening job data has added to the challenge, prompting economists to worry that the Fed is overshooting its inflation target and encouraging bubble-like conditions by maintaining easy monetary policy.