U.S. economy 'healthy' from a monetary policy perspective: Fed's Williams

FILE PHOTO: John C. Williams, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York speaks to the Economic Club of New York in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. economy is in a healthy place “from a pure monetary policy perspective,” but there is more work policymakers can do to make sure growth is widely shared, a top Federal Reserve official said on Thursday.

“We’re closing in on the longest economic expansion on record, unemployment is at historically low levels, and inflation is close to our 2 percent target,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said at an Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development conference in New York.

“From a pure monetary policy perspective, this is a healthy economy. But I’m acutely aware that not everyone is feeling the benefits of the economy’s good performance.”

Not everyone is happy with Fed policy. President Donald Trump has described the independent central bank’s rate hikes in 2018 as an obstacle to strong economic growth and publicly pressed policymakers to change course. He is also considering two people for open seats on the Fed’s board of governors, Herman Cain and Stephen Moore, who are more aligned with his views.

Williams told reporters after his speech that criticism “comes with the territory.” As part of his role at the New York Fed, Williams has a permanent vote on Fed monetary policy.

He said the regional central bank he runs can provide research to local community development organizations as well as push initiatives that target wage and housing inequality.

But on interest rates, the central bank’s most potent tool, the Fed has “space to be patient,” Williams told reporters. He sees positive momentum in the jobs market and economic growth of around 2 percent this year.

Records released on Wednesday from the Fed’s latest meeting in March showed that a majority of the Fed policymakers expect that they will leave rates at their current 2.25-2.50% range for the rest of the year due to concerns about a global slowdown.

Reporting by Richard Leong; Writing by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama