Fed banker warns U.S. economy might be losing 'mojo'

dennis lockhart

A Federal Reserve bank president argued Monday that the U.S. might be losing its "economic mojo."

"There is some evidence to the affirmative," said Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank president Dennis Lockhart at a New York conference of business leaders, faculty and policy makers.

Lockhart said the nation's current economic recovery has fallen short of past comebacks. One reason he suggested is that the U.S. isn't being creative enough in finding ways to grow.

He described the pieces of a "mojo triad" that takes into account traditional indicators of employment, productivity and business start-ups.

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In a growing economy, jobs are created and destroyed as the businesses behind those jobs are created and destroyed. Besides high levels of unemployment, today's workforce has seen about four million less than the historical precedence of about 18 million jobs created and destroyed quarterly, Lockhart said.

Productivity has also lagged, and Lockhard predicted this trend would reverse "as demand kicks into higher gear and as businesses expand production somewhat faster than they expand their payrolls."

Finally, the healthy "entrepreneurial ecosystem" requires new companies that grow rapidly -- or fail. Lockhart called them a "key factor" in the job creation area but expressed concern the "general atmosphere of uncertainty" hasn't encouraged entrepreneurs to take risks.

He also offered tactics that policy makers, including the central bank, can take to get the "mojo" back.

Regulators can remove barriers to entrepreneurship and invest in human capital (such as education or training programs), he said. The Fed can "deliver appropriately favorable interest rate conditions" for economic growth, added Lockhart, who did not have a vote when the Fed decided last week to maintain its stimulus program at current levels.

"There are reasons to believe that some of the decline is cyclical in nature and will reverse itself over time," Lockhart said. "Anything more will call for creative leadership."

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