Washington (AFP) – U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated economist Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve in a move expected to sustain the central bank’s easy money policies and efforts to curb joblessness.
If approved, Yellen would replace outgoing Ben Bernanke as chair of the Fed next February, under heavy pressure to make sure that global growth is not derailed when its longstanding stimulus policy is eventually reined in.
Obama called the first woman ever named to take the helm at the world’s most powerful central bank as “exceptionally qualified” for the job.
“America’s workers and families will have a champion in Janet,” Obama said at a White House ceremony, flanked by Yellen and Bernanke, stating that his pick “sounded the alarm early” about housing and financial bubbles that led to the 2008-2009 recession.
“She is a proven leader, and she’s tough. Not just because she is from Brooklyn,” he quipped, calling for Yellen to be quickly confirmed by the Senate.
“She doesn’t have a crystal ball, but what she does have is a keen understanding of how the markets and the economy work, not just in theory but also in the real world,” he added.
Yellen said she would not break with the U.S. central bank’s current easy-money policies aimed at pushing down unemployment, still high at 7.3 percent in August.
“More needs to be done to strengthen the recovery, particularly for those hardest hit by the Great Recession,” she added as she accepted Obama’s nomination.
“The mandate of the Federal Reserve is to serve all the American people. And too many Americans still can’t find a job, and worry how they’ll pay their bills and provide for their families.”
Yellen, 67, with years of experience in academia and the central bank, has served as Fed vice chairman since 2010.
In that time she has been closely tied to key policy changes, including setting targets for inflation and unemployment, and making the thinking of Fed policymakers more open.
Yellen studied economics at Brown University and then Yale, where she earned a doctorate. She is married to economics Nobel prize winner George Akerlof, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. Both are known for taking economic texts to the beach on vacation.
“The truth is,” Yellen once told an interviewer, “if you spent an evening at our house you would probably hear economics discussed over the dinner table.”