Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that policymakers may have to use additional weapons to pull the country out of an economic mire that has cost at least 20 million jobs and caused “a level of pain that is hard to capture in words.”
While he did not specify what those measures are and where they would come from, Powell said the coronavirus has triggered a situation unlike previous recessions the U.S. has endured, and the response may have to be more from Congress than the Fed.
He noted the unprecedented strength of the fiscal and monetary measures already taken but stressed the importance of making sure that the deepest slump since the Great Depression does not get out of control. The Fed has cut its benchmark rate to near zero and instituted multiple lending and liquidity programs, while Congress has appropriated close to $3 trillion in rescue funding.
“While the economic response has been both timely and appropriately large, it may not be the final chapter, given that the path ahead is both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks,” Powell said in prepared remarks for a webcast event with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
The central bank chief spoke days after the Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls fell by 20.5 million in April and the unemployment rate shot up to 14.7%, both the worst since the Depression by large margins. The department noted that it probably missed millions more due to issues with gathering the data.
At the same time, GDP is expected to plunge by record levels in the second quarter, with expectations dimming for a strong recovery as the coronavirus-induced lockdown of the national economy drags on.