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.
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:
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.
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.
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)