By Victoria McGrane
Paducah, Ky.--St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said Wednesday he is ready to declare that there has been "substantial improvement" in the labor market but he is still not convinced it is time to start pulling back on the Fed's $85 billion-per-month bond-buying program.
Mr. Bullard made the remarks, which clarify what he has said on judging the labor market's health, in a session with reporters Wednesday.
Mr. Bullard said, in analyzing the degree of improvement in the jobs market, he is focused on the unemployment rate and the pace of nonfarm jobs that have been created.
Other Fed officials have discussed a wider array of factors, such as the declining share of the population that is working or looking for work--the labor force participation rate--and hours worked, which is growing more slowly than a year ago. By these measures, the jobs market remains weak, Mr. Bullard said in a speech Wednesday.
"For me, I wouldn't bring in these other indicators," said Mr. Bullard, who is a voting member of the Fed's policy-making committee. "It muddies the water a lot about how to even evaluate the labor market. Are really going to wait for the employment-to-population ratio to increase" before reducing the bond-buying program, he asked.
Still, Mr. Bullard said he isn't ready to say he will embrace scaling back the bond-buying program at the Fed's next meeting, set for Sept. 17-18. "The bigger question marks are on growth and on inflation," he said.
In his speech, Mr. Bullard said the Fed needed to see more economic data before it could make a decision on reducing the bond program. Specifically, he wanted to see if the economy really would grow faster in the second half of the year, as the Fed expects, and see evidence that inflation, which has been running near 1%, is moving back toward the central bank's 2% goal.
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