Fed's Powell sees US boom ahead

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says US growth in late 2021 is going to be
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says US growth in late 2021 is going to be "very strong".

The US economy is poised for extended strong growth and hiring, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says, though coronavirus still poses some risk.

Powell, speaking to CBS' 60 Minutes on Sunday, said he doesn't expect to raise the Fed's benchmark interest rate, currently pegged at nearly zero, this year.

He also downplayed the risk of higher inflation stemming from sharp increases in government spending and expanding budget deficits.

"We feel like we're at a place where the economy's about to start growing much more quickly and job creation coming in much more quickly," Powell said.

"This growth that we're expecting in the second half of this year is going to be very strong. And job creation, I would expect to be very strong."

In the wide-ranging interview, Powell said the Fed was closely studying the development of a digital dollar but hadn't made a decision on whether to proceed.

Powell said last month the central bank wouldn't issue a digital currency without congressional approval.

He noted that roughly a million jobs were added in March, when revisions to jobs data in January and February are included.

The unemployment rate fell to 6 per cent from 6.2 per cent.

"We would like to see a string of months like that," Powell said. "That is certainly in the range of possibility."

Still, there are about 8.4 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic and Powell acknowledged that he sees a homeless encampment near the Fed's headquarters in Washington.

"There's a lot of suffering out there still. And I think it's important that, just as a country, we stay and help those people," he said.

"The economy that we're going back to is going to be different from the one that we had."

Powell also said the primary risk to the economy remains the pandemic and a breakdown in precautions Americans have largely taken for the past year.

The principal risk "is that we will reopen too quickly, people will too quickly return to their old practices and we'll see another spike in cases," he said.

Australian Associated Press