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Federal Reserve head Jerome Powell says vaccination efforts key to global economic recovery

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday that confidence in resuming economic activity will depend on global coronavirus vaccination efforts as world leaders move forward with efforts to dig out of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Viruses are no respecters of borders, and until the world really is vaccinated, we're all going to be at risk of new mutations and we won't be able to really resume with confidence all around the world," Powell said. He called global vaccination efforts "not only the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do."

Powell made the remarks while speaking on an International Monetary Fund panel about the global economy. As the United States moves toward normalizing Federal Reserve activity, Powell said they are keeping a close eye on vaccination progress around the world. It's a risk in the United States as well, he said, and even if another U.S. outbreak is not as deadly or economically damaging, it will slow the recovery.

"I would just urge that people do get vaccinated and continue socially distancing," Powell said.

This comes as the United States has seen positive signs of recovery, including the economy adding more than 900,000 jobs last month according to the latest federal data. Powell pointed to substantial fiscal support for vaccination efforts, with more than 100 million Americans having already received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and around 3 million vaccinations taking place a day in the United States.

Powell noted the economic recovery in the United States, however, has been uneven, with the burden falling largely on the lower income workers. He said unemployment in the bottom quarter of workers is still 20%. He also noted there are around 8.5 million people out of work in the country.

"This unevenness that we're talking about is a very serious issue," Powell said. He also expressed concern with long-term unemployment, as over time, people's skills can atrophy and their job market connections drop, making it harder to get back to work.

Powell said generally, the focus is too much on the short term measures and not enough on policies that can help in the long term.

"I think we need to really as a country — and I'm not talking about any particular bill —invest in things that will increase the inclusiveness of the economy and the longer-term potential of it," he said. "Particularly, invest in people."

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