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Fed chief generally upbeat on economy in visit to Philadelphia

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks in Philadelphia

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks in Philadelphia

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen was in Philadelphia on Monday where, in a speech to the World Affairs Council, she was mostly optimistic about the country’s economic outlook, while acknowledging that some people are still struggling.

Yellen didn’t answer the big question about when exactly the Fed will raise interest rates — in part, because of last month’s weak jobs report that showed the country added only 38,000 jobs, the smallest increase in employment growth since 2010. 

But, “I see good reasons to expect that the positive forces supporting employment growth and higher inflation will continue to outweigh the negative ones,” she said. “As a result, I expect the economic expansion to continue, with the labor market improving further and GDP growing moderately.” 

However, Yellen pointed out that some Americans were hit harder by the Recession than others.

“Unemployment rates rose more during the recession for African-Americans and Hispanics than for the nation overall, and even though those rates have also come down by more during the economic expansion, unemployment remains higher for these groups,” she said.

Yellen also acknowledged that national monetary policy can only go so far to help, “and measures beyond the scope of monetary policy should be considered to alleviate the economic challenges that these and other Americans face.”

“Education and training, of course, are vital,” she added. 

After her speech, Yellen visited the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, a program run by the University City District that has been training city residents for jobs at major institutions for the past six years. 

Derek Holmes, who looked in vain for work for a year after losing his previous job, is now training as a certified medical assistant at Drexel University. He said he hopes Yellen learned from his story “that there are many people in many communities with talent, with drive, with determination that just need opportunity.”

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