Powell's Valentine to the Fed: 'I love my job'

(Reuters) - With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, and less than a year to go in his four-year term, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday declared his love for the job - just as President Joe Biden may be weighing whether to let him keep it.

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell holds a news conference following the Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“Is your job fun?” Harvard professor Greg Mankiw asked Powell at the end of an hour-long virtual appearance at the Economic Club of New York.

“Yes, it is. I love my job,” Powell said. “It’s a chance to do work that I think helps people.”

Powell’s term is up next February, and in the coming months the newly elected Democratic president will need to decide if he will ask a Fed chair picked by his Republican predecessor to stay on.

Most presidents faced with a similar choice have opted to stick with the status quo, with only two exceptions in the last 50 years: in 1977, when President Jimmy Carter decided against reappointing Fed Chair Arthur Burns, and in 2017, when President Donald Trump opted to replace Janet Yellen with Powell, then a Fed governor appointed by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump later regretted his pick, repeatedly taking Powell to task for raising interest rates when the president wanted them lower.

While the typically reserved Powell did not use Wednesday’s event to say he’d like to be kept on at the Fed, the speech he delivered before his unscripted remark clearly aligned the Fed’s - and his - economic policy priorities with those of Biden and Yellen, now U.S. Treasury secretary.

Indeed, since last year the Powell Fed has retooled strategy to emphasize reaching “maximum employment” with much less worry about sparking inflation, an approach Powell reiterated on Wednesday. Powell also plugged for a “society-wide” commitment to full employment that would include the kind of fiscal support that Biden is seeking - notable for a registered Republican with past deficit-hawk credentials.

A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Biden policy adviser Jared Bernstein, however, quoted Powell approvingly at a press briefing last week, noting the Fed chief’s concern over doing too little to help Americans return to work rather than on overshooting on inflation.

If there was any doubt about what job path Powell would prefer, Wednesday’s avowal may have laid that to rest.

“I have great colleagues, and yeah, the subject matter is endlessly interesting and important,” Powell told Mankiw. “And I really do enjoy the work.”

Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Dan Burns and Dan Grebler