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Former Fed Chairman Bernanke Sees Diminished Headwinds to Growth

Ben S. Bernanke, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Ben S. Bernanke, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

March 7 (Bloomberg) -- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. economy should continue to recover, and he expects the central bank will continue to provide support to growth until the labor market is fully healed.

“Looking ahead, those headwinds appear to be diminishing,” Bernanke said of conditions that have restrained economic growth, during remarks at an energy conference today in Houston. “The Fed has been providing a lot of support for the recovery” and “I expect that will continue.”

Bernanke’s term as leader of the central bank expired in January, and he has taken to the speaking circuit, beginning this week, to offer his perspective on the battle against the most severe crisis since the Great Depression and the outlook for the U.S. economy. He spoke earlier this week at events in Abu Dhabi and Johannesburg.

Speaking today to the IHS CERAWeek 2014 conference on the energy industry, Bernanke also offered his views on the U.S. shale gas revolution, saying it has “clearly been one of the most beneficial, if not the most beneficial, development in the last few years.”

“I don’t want to overstate it,” he said. “The U.S. economy still has a ways to go until it gets to where we would like it.”

Bernanke, 60, spoke on a day that the Labor Department reported the economy added more workers than projected in February, indicating the economy is starting to shake off the effects of the severe winter weather that slowed growth at the start of 2014.

Job Growth

The 175,000 gain in employment followed a 129,000 increase the prior month that was bigger than initially estimated. The jobless rate rose to 6.7 percent from 6.6 percent as the number of people joining the workforce swamped the quantity of jobs available.

During his eight-year tenure as Fed chief, Bernanke presided over the longest recession since the 1930s. He lowered the Fed’s target interest rate to zero in December 2008 and initiated three rounds of large scale bond purchases that pushed the Fed’s balance sheet to more than $4 trillion.

“The time will obviously come, I make no forecast or prediction, we hope the economy will get to full employment,” Bernanke said. “At that point, it will be up to the Fed to withdraw accommodation.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Joshua Zumbrun in Washington at jzumbrun@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net Brendan Murray

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