U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the severity of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic calls for “patience” in maintaining massive monetary stimulus as he stressed that there is a “long road” to employment recovery.

“The pandemic has led to the largest 12-month decline in labor force participation since at least 1948,” Powell told a virtual conference of the Economic Club of New York.

He, therefore, pointed to the need for “a patient monetary stimulus policy that takes on board the lessons of the past” regarding the benefits of low-interest rates for the labor market.

The unemployment rate, which went from 3.5% in February 2020 to 14.7% in April when the COVID-19 pandemic had the greatest impact, has been declining every month since then and in the last three months of 2020 remained at numbers close to 7%, indicating a stagnant labor market.

“Despite the surprising speed of the recovery at the outset, we are still a long way from a strong labor market whose benefits can be shared broadly,” Powell asserted.

Powell’s statements come on the same day that the data showed that inflation in the United States in January stood at 1.4% at an annual rate, a figure that is slightly below the expected 1.5%.

In its monthly comparison, the figure was 0.3%, data that show that there are no inflationary pressures significant enough for the Fed to abandon its current stance.

The US central bank maintains extraordinary monetary support, with benchmark interest rates at around 0% since the arrival of the pandemic in March and multi-billion dollar injections of liquidity.

The Fed’s next monetary policy meeting is scheduled for March 16-17.

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