The Federal Reserve plans to keep a key interest rate at a record low to support a U.S. job market that's improving but still isn't fully healthy and help lift inflation from unusually low levels. As expected, it's also ending a bond purchase program that was intended to keep long-term rates low.
The Fed on Wednesday reiterated its plan to maintain its benchmark short-term rate near zero "for a considerable time." Most economists predict that the Fed won't raise that rate before mid-2015. The Fed's benchmark rate affects the rates on many consumer and business loans.
In a statement ending a policy meeting, the Fed suggested that the job market, though still not back to normal, is strengthening. The statement drops a previous reference to "significant" in referring to an "underutilization" of available workers. Instead, the Fed said that the underutilization of labor resources is "gradually diminishing." The Fed also said that labor market conditions had improved further with "solid job gains and a lower unemployment rate."
The change indicates that the Fed believes the labor market, while not completely restored following the Great Recession, is at least in better shape. One of the Fed's major goals is to achieve maximum employment, which it currently defines as an unemployment rate between 5.2 percent and 5.5 percent. The unemployment rate in September fell to 5.9 percent.
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