Bernanke also noted that the economic recovery is continuing at a frustratingly slow pace partially as a result of the factors that started the recession.
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"The recession, besides being extraordinarily severe as well as global in scope, was also unusual in being associated with both a very deep slump in the housing market and a historic financial crisis," he said. "These two features of the downturn, individually and in combination, have acted to slow the natural recovery process."
Bernanke also urged fiscal policy makers to take care as they look to reduce deficits, because, he said, cutting spending too quickly could hurt an already "fragile" economic recovery.
"Achieving fiscal sustainability, which is the result of responsible policies set in place for the longer term, and avoiding creation of fiscal headwinds for the recovery--are not incompatible," he said.
"Acting now to put in place a credible plan for reducing future deficits over the long term, while being attentive to the implications of fiscal choices for the recovery in the near term, can help serve both objectives."
The comments shed little new light on the Fed's plans, and stocks added significantly to losses after the prepared remarks were released at 1:30 p.m. ET.