Fed's Powell sees US boom ahead, with COVID still a risk

FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2020, file photo, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell listens during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. During an interview broadcast Sunday, April 11, 2021, on CBS' "60 Minutes," Powell said the U.S. economy is poised for an extended period of strong growth and hiring, though the coronavirus still poses some risk. (Al Drago/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2020, file photo, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell listens during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. During an interview broadcast Sunday, April 11, 2021, on CBS' "60 Minutes," Powell said the U.S. economy is poised for an extended period of strong growth and hiring, though the coronavirus still poses some risk. (Al Drago/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File) (30251442A)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. economy is poised for an extended period of strong growth and hiring, the chair of the Federal Reserve said in an interview broadcast Sunday, though the coronavirus still poses some risk.

Chair Jerome Powell, speaking to CBS' “60 Minutes," also said that he doesn't expect to raise the Fed's benchmark interest rate, currently pegged at nearly zero, this year. And he downplayed the risk of higher inflation stemming from sharp increases in government spending and expanding budget deficits.

“We feel like we’re at a place where the economy’s about to start growing much more quickly and job creation coming in much more quickly,” Powell said. “This growth that we’re expecting in the second half of this year is going to be very strong. And job creation, I would expect to be very strong.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Powell said that the Fed is closely studying the development of a digital dollar, but hasn't yet made a decision on whether to proceed. Powell said last month that the central bank wouldn't issue a digital currency without approval from Congress.

Powell noted that roughly a million jobs were added in March, when revisions to jobs data in January and February are included. The unemployment rate fell to 6% from 6.2%.

“We would like to see a string of months like that,” he said. “That is certainly in the range of possibility.”

Still, there are about 8.4 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic, and Powell acknowledged that he regularly sees a homeless encampment near the Fed's headquarters in Washington.

“There’s a lot of suffering out there still," he said. "And I think it’s important that, just as a country, we stay and help those people. The economy that we’re going back to is going to be different from the one that we had.”