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Central Bankers’ New Gospel: Spur Jobs, Wages and Inflation

New York Times (08/25/14) Binyamin Appelbaum

Leaders of the world’s major central banks made clear in speeches at this year’s conference in Wyoming that they were focused on raising employment and wages. The pursuit of lower inflation has been replaced by a conviction that inflation is actually too low for the good of the economy.

“Central bankers never used to say things like that,” says Alan Blinder, the former U.S. Federal Reserve vice chairman who was criticized for doing so in 1994, and who now attends the conference as an economist at Princeton University. “Now I think you can go to the most hawkish end of the Fed and whoever you pick as the most hawkish will not say that we just shouldn’t pay any attention to unemployment.”

Looming over the conference, however, was the reality that central banks had made limited progress toward achieving these new goals. They also face mounting questions about how much more they have the power to do. Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, says it is “very challenging” to determine “how much work is left to be done by monetary policy.” But in a reflection of the sea change in central banking, he added that he would rather err on the side of driving down unemployment rather than retreating too soon.