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US Central Bank Chief Bernanke Says Economy Still Shaky

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The U.S. central bank chief says the country’s labor market remains “far from normal,” even after months of employment gains.

The unemployment rate for the world’s largest economy fell to 8.3 percent earlier this year, and 1.2 million jobs have been added in the last six months. But the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, told a group of business economists Monday that the U.S. economy will have to advance even faster than it currently is for the jobless rate to continue to fall.

He said the U.S. “cannot yet be sure” that the recent improvement in hiring will continue. Bernanke said the boost in hiring may be a reflection that employers cut too many jobs in 2008 and 2009, during the height of the recession. He noted that the unemployment rate is still well above the more normal U.S. figure of about 5 percent.

The U.S. central bank says it plans to keep its benchmark lending rate at near zero through 2014. Bernanke said the bank’s “continued accommodative policies” can help support the country’s economic growth.

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