On December 13, 2023, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen joined CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” for an exclusive interview with co-anchor Sara Eisen at the Treasury Department.
Janet Yellen, born on August 13, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York, is a distinguished American economist who has held several key positions in the U.S. government’s economic hierarchy. She made history in 2014 when she became the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve, a role she held until 2018. In January 2021, Yellen broke another glass ceiling by becoming the first female U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Joe Biden’s administration.
Yellen’s academic journey began at Brown University, where she graduated summa cum laude in Economics in 1967. She then earned a Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University in 1971. Her career in academia includes a long tenure as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was recognized for her expertise in macroeconomics and labor markets.
Her public service career is marked by her tenure as the Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve from 2010 to 2014, before ascending to the Chair position. Yellen is known for her focus on reducing unemployment and her commitment to maintaining low inflation rates. Her approach to policy has often been described as dovish, favoring lower interest rates to support job creation.
As Treasury Secretary, Yellen has played a pivotal role in steering the U.S. economy through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on economic recovery and addressing income inequality. Her tenure is characterized by efforts to reform the tax system, regulate financial institutions, and promote fiscal policies that foster sustainable economic growth.
Economic Resilience and Soft Landing: Yellen reflected on the resilience of the U.S. economy in 2023, noting that despite predictions of a recession, she always believed there was a path to a ‘soft landing.’ She emphasized that it was possible to bring down inflation without triggering high unemployment. Yellen attributed the inflationary pressures to disturbances in product markets due to the pandemic and supply chain issues, as well as disruptions in the labor market. She observed that the labor market has now stabilized, with quit rates and job openings returning to normal levels, and layoffs remaining low. This stability, coupled with a meaningful reduction in inflation, suggests the economy is on a path to achieving the Federal Reserve’s 2% objective.
Public Perception of the Economy: Addressing the public’s perception of the economy, Yellen acknowledged that Americans might not feel great about the economic situation. She cited a recent preliminary Michigan survey showing an uptick in consumer confidence, with consumers beginning to understand that inflation is decreasing. Yellen noted that while wage growth has moderated, real earnings are going up, which should gradually improve public sentiment. However, she recognized that certain expenses, like rent, remain a concern for many, with prices in some areas higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Gas and Egg Prices: Yellen mentioned specific price changes, highlighting the significant decrease in gas prices, with some states seeing prices under $3 per gallon. She also referred to the skyrocketing egg prices due to the Avian flu, which have now started to come down towards pre-pandemic levels.
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