Boston Federal Reserve President Susan M. Collins expects a “somewhat higher unemployment rate” as the Federal Reserve continues its steps to bring down inflation.
In her first public speech since becoming the Boston Fed president on July 1, Collins said the Fed’s mandate to bring inflation down to 2 percent would provide a level of price stability where consumers and businesses would not need to focus on protecting themselves from eroding purchasing power.
“Actions taken by the FOMC since March, together with the guidance provided in its most recent projections, illustrate policymakers’ resolve to address high inflation expeditiously, and prevent it from becoming entrenched in expectations,” Collins said.
Collins, the first Black woman to lead one of the U.S. federal reserve banks, spoke today at an event sponsored by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. The Boston Fed’s region includes all of Connecticut except Fairfield County.
Pointing to the Fed’s dual mandate on inflation and maximum employments, Collins said price stability has historically been a precondition of achieving maximum employment on a medium- to long-term basis. She acknowledged the short-term impacts of bringing down inflation.
“I do anticipate that accomplishing our price stability goal will require slower employment growth and a somewhat higher unemployment rate,” Collins said. “And I take very seriously that unemployment is painful, and that its costs have disproportionately been concentrated among groups that have traditionally been marginalized.”
A voting member in this year’s rotation, Collins has attended two Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meetings since beginning her tenure.
Collins did say that she was optimistic that slower demand could be achieved without a significant economic downturn. She pointed to the strength of household and business balance sheets compared to previous tightening cycles and the current labor market conditions, where many firms do not have enough workers.
“I think it’s no surprise that as monetary policy moves to a more restrictive stance in order to transition the economy to more sustainable labor market conditions and to bring inflation down, that there is some apprehension about the possibility of a significant downturn,” Collins said. “I do believe that the goal, which I share with my FOMC colleagues, of a more modest slowdown, while challenging, is achievable.”
In a question-and-answer segment with James Rooney, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, after the speech, Collins was asked about rising mortgage rates and whether the region was seeing a housing correction.
“I would say as part of the outlook as the Fed continues to tighten monetary policy to bring back alignment, that it would not be surprising if mortgage rates increase somewhat in addition,” Collins said.
She also also noted the connection between rising interest rates and the housing industry, including the possible slow-down of construction.
“These tools have multiple kinds of effects and they influence different parts of the economy in a couple of different ways,” Collins said. “So, the housing market is something that we’re watching very closely; we have seen some moderation with housing prices.”