Excerpts from Chair Janet Yellen Speech At The Executives' Club of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois:
The U.S. economy has exhibited remarkable resilience in the face of adverse shocks in recent years, and economic developments since mid-2016 have reinforced the Committee's confidence that the economy is on track to achieve our statutory goals. Job gains have remained quite solid, and the unemployment rate, at 4.8 percent in January, is now in line with the median of FOMC participants' estimates of its longer-run normal level. On the whole, the prospects for further moderate economic growth look encouraging, particularly as risks emanating from abroad appear to have receded somewhat. The Committee currently assesses that the risks to the outlook are roughly balanced.
With the job market strengthening and inflation rising toward our target, the median assessment of FOMC participants as of last December was that a cumulative 3/4 percentage point increase in the target range for the federal funds rate would likely be appropriate over the course of this year. In light of current economic conditions, such an increase would be consistent with the Committee's expectation that it will raise the target range for the federal funds rate at a gradual pace and would bring the real federal funds rate close to some estimates of its current neutral level. However, partly because my colleagues and I expect the neutral real federal funds rate to rise somewhat over the longer run, we projected additional gradual rate hikes in 2018 and 2019.
Our individual projections for the appropriate path for the federal funds rate reflect economic forecasts that generally envision that economic activity will expand at a moderate pace in coming years, labor market conditions will strengthen somewhat further, and inflation will be at or near 2 percent over the medium term. In short, we currently judge that it will be appropriate to gradually increase the federal funds rate if the economic data continue to come in about as we expect. Indeed, at our meeting later this month, the Committee will evaluate whether employment and inflation are continuing to evolve in line with our expectations, in which case a further adjustment of the federal funds rate would likely be appropriate.
Nonetheless, as we have said many times--and as my discussion today demonstrates--monetary policy cannot be and is not on a preset course. As in 2015 and 2016, the Committee stands ready to adjust its assessment of the appropriate path for monetary policy if unanticipated developments materially change the economic outlook.