© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
(Reuters) – Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller said on Tuesday it is time to “hit it” on raising interest rates to deal with inflation that is too high and a labor market, with nearly two open jobs for every job seeker, that is “out of whack.”
“It’s time to raise rates now when the economy can take it,” Waller told the Economic Club of Minnesota. “Front-load it, get it done, and then we can judge how the economy is proceeding later, and if we have to do more, we’re going to do more.”
The U.S. central bank last week raised interest rates by half a percentage point and Fed Chair Jerome Powell signaled similar-sized rate hikes were likely at the next two policy meetings.
Waller was asked why, if inflation is as high as it is, the Fed isn’t raising rates even faster.
“It’s not a shock-and-awe Volcker moment,” Waller said, referring to former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, whose battle with inflation in the early 1980s involved sharp and unexpected rate increases of as much as four percentage points at a time, and sent the economy into a sharp recession.
Back then, Waller said, inflation had been building for years and the public and financial markets had little faith in the Fed’s ability to control it.
The current bout of inflation has only been running too high for about a year, he said.
“We are on it already, and there’s no backing off,” Waller said. “And the other advantage is the labor market, as I said, is so strong, the economy is doing so well, this is the time to hit it.”