Our 'Unusually Uncertain' Economy

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.
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. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

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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