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Feb. 1, 2021, 8:29 p.m. EST

Economy still in ‘depths of recession,’ Fed’s Rosengren says

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Greg Robb

The discussion about a U.S. economic recovery remains simply that — talk, said Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren on Monday.

“We’re still in the depths of a recession,” Rosengren said, during a conference on labor markets sponsored by the Atlanta Fed.

While a lot of part-time layoffs have come back to work, “we’re still talking about 6.7% unemployment, and we’re still talking about 3 million people on temporary layoff,” he said.

“I hope over the course of the spring, we’re talking about a significant recovery. But I think it does depend on…some of the public health outcomes,” he said.

Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic, appearing alongside Rosengren. said the economy is experiencing a combination of a recession and a recovery at the same time.

There has been a “significant amount of recovery in some sectors” where business leaders are out of pandemic-crisis mode, he said.

Bostic and Rosengren were on a panel to discuss structural problems in the labor market that keep Blacks and other minorities from reaching their full employment potential.

Bostic, the first Black president of a regional Fed bank in its more-than-100-year history, said government policymakers needed to think “holistically” about the problem, combining improvements in health care, transportation, affordable housing and skills development.

In addition, “for many people we want in the workforce, they don’t have information about how they might do that,” Bostic said. The government has to go find them and engage them, he added.

Rosengren said that in East Hartford, Conn., there is a Black and Latino neighborhood with double-digit unemployment within five miles of major factories looking for workers. But never have the two sides met.

Rosengren said part of the disconnect, beyond the fact that management was not even mulling hiring in the inner-city neighborhood, was that there was no public bus running near the factories and shift times make it harder for women to work. Many of the starting jobs were on the late shift but let out before there was any chance of finding public transportation.

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