The most recent two jobs reports were much weaker than most economists were expecting—even economists who are in charge of the U.S. economy.
"I was surprised that the jobs reports in December and January—[that the] pace of job creation was running under what I had anticipated," Janet Yellen said in her first public appearance as Federal Reserve Board chair on Tuesday. "But we have to be very careful not to jump to conclusions in interpreting what those reports mean," she told members of the House Financial Services Committee as part of the Fed chief's semiannual testimony.
The unseasonably cold weather might have contributed to the lackluster payroll growth in December and January (just 75,000 and 113,000, respectively), she noted.
Yellen repeated that the Fed's $65 billion bond-buying stimulus program, which the central bank's policy-setting committee started to wind down in December and January with a $10 billion cut each month, was not on a pre-set course. She said that a "notable change in the outlook" would be necessary before the central bank considered slowing the unwinding process, and she reiterated that the central bank would consider a range of data when making its decisions about the asset purchase program.
The Fed's policy-setting committee will next meet on March 18-19.