Our 'Unusually Uncertain' Economy

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks during a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill July 21, 2010 in Washington, DC.

The Federal Reserve chief speaks to Congress on the economy, and his testimony is full of on-the-one-hand / on-the-other-hand.

Ben Bernanke's speaking to Congress this afternoon, and his testimony is full of on-the-one-hand / on-the-other-hand.

It's a reminder of what Bernanke called the "unusually uncertain" economic moment we're in -- a moment when economists debate questions as basic as whether inflation or deflation is a bigger threat.

Here are a few key pieces of Bernanke's testimony.

Unemployment:

On the one hand: "After two years of job losses, private payrolls expanded at an average of about 100,000 per month during the first half of this year"

On the other hand: "In all likelihood, a significant amount of time will be required to restore the nearly 8-1/2 million jobs that were lost over 2008 and 2009."

Economic Growth:

On the one hand: "fiscal policy and inventory restocking will likely be providing less impetus to the recovery than they have in recent quarters"

On the other hand: "rising demand from households and businesses should help sustain growth"

Corporate Spending:

On the one hand: "investment in equipment and software appears to have increased rapidly in the first half of the year"

On the other hand: "spending on nonresidential structures -- weighed down by high vacancy rates and tight credit -- has continued to contract"

Fed Policy:

On the one hand: "the Federal Reserve continues prudent planning for the ultimate withdrawal of extraordinary monetary policy accommodation"

On the other hand: "we remain prepared to take further policy actions as needed" Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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