Formal economic data suggest the U.S. economy is heating up to the point that policymakers might want to tap on the brakes a few times this year by raising interest rates. What happens next depends on a lot of things, but also on what Jerome “Jay” Powell, the brand-new head of the Federal Reserve, determines is best.
While everyone is clamoring for a word from him on the macroeconomic picture, we turned the tables and asked other people around the country that share his name about how things feel on the ground.
Jerome Powell, 35, Baltimore, Maryland, information technology professional
“I would say personally, definitely things are getting more expensive and jobs are not paying what the skill set provides anymore. For instance, working a job like IT doesn’t guarantee you great money anymore.”
Jay Powell, 41, Boone, North Carolina, business consultant for the video game industry
“I mean, I just don’t feel from a job market perspective that we are back enough on solid ground. I still have a lot of friends of mine who are — some highly educated, some highly talented — and they are having tough times getting jobs. That tells me, you know, if they’re having a tough time, then there’s got to be a lot of other people having a tough time as well. So to me, it’s one of those things, I would rather have the money going somewhere else rather than raising interest rates across the board.”
Jerome Powell, 47, Chicago, Illinois, automotive sales manager
“People are still buying but they are complaining, I guess because they are so used to seeing 1 percent, 2 percent [interest rates]. Now rates are going up, 3 and 4 percent, it’s a little shocker to them.”
Jay Powell, 72, San Diego, California, consultant for communities trying to bring solar energy to low- and middle-income families
“I’m still looking over my shoulder at the super-heated stock market, and actually even twisting around now on the stock market because some of the things that were put in place, Dodd-Frank and all these other kinds of attempts at protections, which weren’t even enough, and Consumer Financial [Protection Bureau] that’s supposed to be protecting all of that is being just eliminated in many respects. I think it’s just leaving us vulnerable to, perhaps, an unanticipated disaster.”
Jerome Powell, 34, Nashville, Tennessee, pharmacy technician and part-time bartender
“Most people that I know, they are somewhat like me. They work seven days a week without an off day, so there’s no time for your kids … I couldn’t handle interest rates going up any higher than what they are right now, on anything, my car. I don’t own a house, and I’m not buying a house, but if I did, I wouldn’t want my interest rate to go up on that.”
Jerome Powell, 65, Washington, D.C., chair of the Federal Reserve
Now that the economy is at full employment and wages are starting to rise, Powell is expected to raise interest rates, perhaps modestly, over the next year. That’s one reason behind the recent selloffs in the stock market. Powell is also expected to take a lighter hand with financial regulations than his predecessor Janet Yellen. Marketplace spoke to Jerome Powell in March 2016 before he was promoted to lead the Fed. At the time, he was on the Board of Governors.
“We’re tasked by Congress with keeping inflation low and keeping the economy near full employment. And we have, really, one tool to do that, and that is by keeping short-term interest rates either higher or lower to support economic activity at the right level. That’s what we can do.”
How does the economy feel to you? Let us know and you may end up on air.
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