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Powell warns U.S. recovery could stretch through end of 2021

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell pauses during a news conference March 3  in Washington, D.C. He was optimistic Sunday about the  economy’s recovery. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell pauses during a news conference March 3 in Washington, D.C. He was optimistic Sunday about the economy’s recovery. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)
By Alister Bull Tribune News Service

The U.S. economy will recover from the coronavirus pandemic, but the process could stretch through until the end of next year and depend on the delivery of a vaccine, said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

“Assuming there’s not a second wave of the coronavirus, I think you’ll see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year,” the U.S. central bank chief said in an excerpt of an interview conducted Wednesday and aired on Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” show.

“For the economy to fully recover people will have to be fully confident, and that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine,” he said.

More than 36 million Americans have lost their jobs since February as the economy shuttered to limit virus spread. Countless companies, especially small businesses, are hurtling toward bankruptcy, while states and cities are confronting gaping budget shortfalls that could provoke a massive second wave of layoffs from the public sector.

The Fed chief said people should never “bet” against the American economy, but he took care not to promise a swift, so-called V-shaped rebound.

“This economy will recover. It may take a while,” he said. “It could stretch through the end of next year. We really don’t know.”

Powell’s full interview was broadcast Sunday evening on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

Powell’s remarks follow his grave warning Wednesday that the U.S. economy faces lasting harm from the pandemic if the government doesn’t step up. The comments add support to calls for more congressional spending as Democrats push for a fresh $3 trillion in virus aid on top of a record $2.2 trillion package agreed to in March. On Friday, the House passed the measure, though it has no future in the Republican-led Senate.

Powell can expect questions on the scale and timing of additional fiscal relief when he appears before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. He’ll also be asked to tell Americans what to expect. For all his caution, the Fed chief also had a message of hope.

“I would just say this: In the long run, and even in the medium run, you would not want to bet against the American economy.”

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