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Jerome Powell. Photo: Susan Walsh/Getty Images

In the fog of all the takes on the Fed's rate liftoff timeline this week, chair Jerome Powell's view of the labor market got relatively little attention.

The big picture: At Wednesday's press conference, Powell continued to express confidence in strong employment growth throughout the rest of the year — along with a dose of humility about the forecasting.

Why it matters: The apparent mismatch between available jobs and unemployed Americans has perplexed analysts and investors over the last few months. And full employment is one of the guiding lights underpinning any Fed policy moves.

What he's saying: "I am confident that we're on a path to a very strong labor market — a labor market that shows low unemployment, high participation and rising wages for people across the spectrum," Powell said on Wednesday.

The state of play: Powell highlighted a few things clouding the current picture.

  • Retirements. "We've seen a significant number of people retire. And so, we don't actually know exactly what labor force participation will be as we go forward."
  • Job switching. "The act of going back to one's old job, that's already happened. So, this is a question of people finding a new job. And that's just a process that takes longer — there may be something of a speed limit on it."

Powell also highlighted the oft-mentioned themes of lack of childcare, fear of COVID and unemployment insurance as factors keeping some on the sidelines.

The Fed forecasts that U.S. unemployment will fall to 4.5% by the end of the year — it's currently 5.8% — and to 3.8% next year. That's basically unchanged from its projections in March.

Yes, but: "This is an extraordinarily unusual time, and we really don't have a template," Powell said. "We have to be humble about our ability to understand the data. It's not a time to try to reach hard conclusions."

Go deeper: Fed chair Jerome Powell faces grueling summer audition for a second term

Go deeper

Federal Reserve will soon ease pandemic-era support

Fed Chair Jerome Powell during a congressional hearing last year. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Federal Reserve hinted Wednesday its full throttle of economic support could start to ease as soon as November (its next policy meeting).

Why it matters: It would be the start of a pivot for the Fed, which unleashed unprecedented measures when the pandemic hit to help rescue the U.S. economy.

John Frank, author of Denver
Sep 22, 2021 - Axios Denver

Defying the pandemic, Colorado sees an economic rebound

Expand chart
Data: Colorado Legislative Council Economic Outlook; Note: 2021 average is from September 2020 to August 2021; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The state's economy continues to show substantial growth even as coronavirus cases hit 2021 highs and inequities persist.

Why it matters: The dichotomy — revealed Tuesday in two economic forecasts — is driving how Colorado leaders respond to the pandemic and decide to allocate billions in state and federal relief.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID-19 complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.