What Fed Chair Jerome Powell sees as America's top economic challenge

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell painted a bleak picture of widening economic disparities in the U.S. on Wednesday evening, calling the lack of economic mobility in the country one of the biggest economic challenges over the next decade.

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During a town hall in Washington, D.C., with a group of educators, the leader of the U.S. central bank said the likelihood of someone going from the “bottom to the top” has become increasingly slim, while income for the middle and lower levels “has really decreased.”

“We want prosperity to be widely shared,” he said. “We need policies to make that happen.”

Powell acknowledged that income inequality lays outside of the Fed’s jurisdiction, but called for policies to enhance mobility, improve people’s chances in life and enable people to enter a workforce that’s increasingly dependent on technology and artificial intelligence.

“This isn’t really the Fed’s work,” he said. “But there are policies that we need to do that everyone should be able to agree on.”

It’s not the first time that Powell has addressed what he believes is an unfair system. In December, while delivering prepared remarks, Powell said that the benefits of the strong economy have “not reached all Americans.” Although unemployment has dropped to a near-historic low, wage growth has been slow to follow.

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“The aggregate statistics tend to mask important disparities by income, race and geography,” he said at the time.