Speed Reads

coronavirus and the economy

Fed chairman Jerome Powell says U.S. economy is at an 'inflection point'

The country's economic recovery is gaining momentum, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told 60 Minutes in an interview that aired Sunday, and the "principle risk" is that the coronavirus "would spread again. It's going to be smart if people can continue to socially distance and wear masks."

The economy seems "to be at an inflection point," Powell told correspondent Scott Pelley. "And that's because of widespread vaccination and strong fiscal support, strong monetary policy support. 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."

Forecasters are seeing "growth for this year in the range of 6 percent or 7 percent, which would be the highest level in, you know, 30 years," Powell said. "Or even maybe a little bit higher. And forecasting unemployment to move down substantially from 6 percent, where it is now, maybe to between 4 percent and 5 percent."

While the growth expected in the second half of the year "is going to be very strong," Powell said, it is an "unusual recovery," where people see some industries "are doing very well, have fully recovered, have even more than fully recovered in some cases. And some parts haven't recovered very much at all yet. And those tend to be the ones that involve direct contact with the public. Travel, entertainment, restaurants, things like that."

At least 8.5 million Americans who were working in February 2020 aren't now, Powell said, and it's "going to take some time" for them to find employment, but "we're not going to forget those people who were left on the beach really without jobs as this expansion continues." He told Pelley he didn't want to even think about what would have happened if lawmakers hadn't passed coronavirus relief bills. "It would've been so much worse," he said. "Congress, in effect, replaced people's incomes. Kept them in their homes, kept them solvent, kept their lives together with what they did in the CARES Act. It was heroic." Catherine Garcia