Concerns about the economy's ability to produce jobs at a meaningful rate were raised when the Federal Reserve's policymaking arm met in late January, but members decided the situation was temporary, minutes from the meeting show. "The December employment report suggested that the labor market had not gained much momentum as previously appeared to be under way,'' said the minutes, a summary of which was released Thursday. Nevertheless, "Given
members' expectations of persisting above-trend economic growth, they saw increasing demand for workers as a likely prospect going forward," the notes showed. The two-day meeting ended Jan. 28 with the FOMC dropping its vow to keep interest rates low for a "considerable period" and replacing it with "patient" monetary policy. The tweak threw financial markets into a tailspin, routing bond and stock prices as traders tried to price in an earlier-than-expected rate hike. The lack of appreciable payroll growth in February's employment report reversed the losses in bonds and might have confirmed January's concern. In a statement last Tuesday, the FOMC noted job growth continues to lag the rest of the economy. Part of the rationale for the rewording was the strength in those very securities. Members fretted about "valuations in the financial markets that left little room for downside risks," the summary showed. But others worried changing the language could be premature. "Even the replacement language would tend to shape expectations in a way that could complicate the conduct of policy, and with the economy in a strong uptrend, the FOMC no longer needed to utilize such special language," they said. "Members acknowledged that there were risks in maintaining what might eventually prove to be an overly accommodative policy stance,'' the minutes said. "But for now they judged that it was desirable to take risks on the side of assuring the rapid elimination of economic slack.''