The U.S. Economy Has a Long Way to Go According to This Powerful Woman

While things have recovered for countless firms -- even the biggest banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America -- since the depths of the Great Recession, the new Federal Reserve Chair has surprising insight into how the U.S. economy is performing.

Apr 5, 2014 at 11:48AM

This week, the newest chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, provided frank and honest insight into how she feels the U.S. economy is performing. Her opinion and insight may surprise you.

The U.S. economy
Much has been made of the decline in unemployment since its peak of 10% in October 2009 to its latest reading of 6.7%. In total, the U.S. has added more than 7.5 million new jobs and the economy has grown its output by more than $1.5 trillion.


Janet Yellen.

This of course fails to mention the remarkable recovery in stock prices, as the S&P 500 is up by more than 150% and seemingly touches a new all-time high each and every week.

Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) are also powerful examples of the rebound, as their stock prices have each risen by more than 450% over the same time. While questions swirled surrounding their ability to even exist five years ago, all signs point to these two being well on the path to recovery.

All of this has led many to believe the economy in the U.S. has fully recovered and the Federal Reserve has done its job -- yet the remarks from Yellen at a recent speech provide unique insight into how she feels: 

"[W]hile there has been steady progress, there is also no doubt that the economy and the job market are not back to normal health...The recovery still feels like a recession to many Americans, and it also looks that way in some economic statistics."

The truth about unemployment
One of the first things Yellen highlights is that while the unemployment rate is well below its peak, it still remains distinctly elevated where it stood both before the recession and in the decades prior:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Yet it isn't as though the unemployment rate tells the entire picture. While there have undoubtedly been improvement in the dynamics of the labor force, the number of people working part-time exclusively for economic reasons stands at a staggering 7.2 million. Prior to 2008, on average, the number of individuals falling into that category stood at just 4.1 million.


Another problem Yellen discusses is nearly 40% of those who are unemployed have been looking for work for more than six months -- 3.9 million people -- and employers are often hesitant to hire more qualified individuals who have been unemployed for a long period of time. This is one of the many reasons the participation rate -- the measure of individuals who are either working or looking for work -- stands at just 63%. Many who desire to be working have been discouraged and left the labor force entirely.

Rightly, Yellen notes these pieces of insight -- plus low wage growth and others factors -- couple together to "tell us important things that the unemployment rate alone cannot."

The future
As a result, Yellen suggests, "based on the evidence available, it is clear to me that the U.S. economy is still considerably short of the two goals assigned to the Federal Reserve by the Congress." She believes there is still work to be done surrounding its focus to ensure the economy is operating at its full capacity.

Yellen (and the other Federal Reserve members) believe unemployment should instead be between 5.2% and 5.6%. While 6.7% is certainly much closer than where the economy has been, when you consider both the striking number of individuals who have left the workforce or find themselves working part-time because of conditions outside of their control, Yellen is right to assert more needs to be done.

The Foolish bottom line
Yellen concludes by noting, "the scars from the Great Recession remain, and reaching our goals will take time," but "the Federal Reserve is committed to strengthening communities and restoring a healthy economy that benefits all Americans."

While in countless ways it is encouraging to see how dramatically things have improved since the depths of the recession, it should cause great hope to know one of the most powerful individuals guiding the economy understands America is capable of providing so much more, and as a result, even more is to be done.

More insight from powerful people
Janet Yellen provides reason for optimism surrounding the future of the U.S. economy, and Warren Buffett tells you where to park your money as a result. In fact, he's has made billions through his investing and he wants you to be able to invest like him. Over the years, Buffett has offered up investing tips to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, which have been worth more than you can imagine. Now you can tap into the best of Warren Buffett's wisdom in a new special report from The Motley Fool. Click here now for a free copy of this invaluable report.

Patrick Morris owns shares of Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information