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America is pushing the labour market to its limits

BY MANY measures, America’s economy is powering ahead. GDP is on track to grow at around 3% this year, and the unemployment rate is an impressively low 3.9%. For President Donald Trump, it is an unmissable opportunity to gloat. On September 10th he described the economy as “soooo good” and “perhaps the best in our country’s history”. But for others the very same figures present an economic puzzle.The Federal Reserve has been raising its benchmark interest rate since December 2015, and will probably do so again this month, from a range of 1.75-2% to 2-2.25%. This is the central banker’s version of twiddling the bath taps, but on a national scale. It requires a delicate touch. Too much cold water, in the form of higher rates, will choke off demand and hence jobs. Too much hot, and rising inflation will eat away at people’s spending power. The aim is to find the perfect temperature, where employment is as high as it can be while inflation stays subdued.
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