Factbox: Yellen's dashboard gives mixed signals on jobs, inflation

Politics Reuters

The dashboard of economic indicators that Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen watches to monitor the U.S. economy's progress toward full employment and the Fed's 2-percent inflation target is flashing green and red and yellow, all at the same time.

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The mixed signals, from a government report on jobs Friday and a report on inflation Thursday, do little to suggest that Yellen is likely to soon veer from her current policy path, which puts the Fed's massive bond-buying program on track to end before the year is out, but for short-term interest rates to stay near zero until mid-2015.

Following are the latest readings on some key gauges that Yellen has identified as being on her dashboard:

GREEN:

The U.S. unemployment rate dived to a 5-1/2 year low of 6.3 percent in April, from 6.7 percent in March. A broader measure of unemployment, which also includes those who have looked for a job some time in the past year and those working part-time but would rather work full, declined in tandem, to 12.3 percent from 12.7 percent. U.S. job growth rose at its fastest pace in more than two years.

YELLOW:

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Long-term unemployed: The share of workers unemployed for more than half a year is about 35.3 percent of the total jobless, down from 35.8 percent in March, and from 37.4 percent a year ago. That's improvement, but before the crisis the figure was typically below 20 percent.

Wage gains: Average hourly were unchanged in April versus March. Moderate wage gains, especially amid low inflation, would signal a healthier job market.

RED:

Labor force participation rate: The share of working-age Americans who are employed or are looking for a job fell to 62.8 percent in April, the lowest level since last December. Yellen has said this rate may level off in a healthier job market.

Inflation: By the Fed's preferred gauge, the core price index for personal consumption expenditures, prices rose just 1.2 percent in March from a year earlier a report showed Thursday. That was an improvement from the 1.1 percent year-on-year rise in February, but still far below the Fed's 2-percent goal.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)