Mark Schweitzer is senior vice president and director of research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
Neither the identity of his employer nor its location drew boos. Schweitzer spoke Thursday morning at the Energy & Innovation Conference at Southpointe, and cited some encouraging forecasts for the economy.
“The economic outlook is not as severe as what we’re getting used to,” he said at the Hilton Garden Inn, on the second and final day of the second annual event.
The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the U.S. By law, it conducts monetary policy by influencing money and credit conditions with the dual goal of achieving maximum employment and stable prices.
The Fed has a monetary policy-making body called the Federal Open Market Committee, comprised of 12 members, which meets eight times a year. The FOMC, among other things, helps to assess the economy.
During a PowerPoint presentation, Schweitzer displayed and discussed FOMC economic projections for 2012 through 2015.
“We’re definitely seeing slower growth during this recovery,” he said. “Growth has been about 2 percent this year. It’s definitely been a disappointing year.”
Schweitzer pointed out, though, that the FOMC projections for the next three years are promising. “I agree with the committee when it says the economy should pick up in 2013 and 2014,” he said. “(The committee) sees significant growth in 2014.”
Despite the extended downturn, Schweitzer said, “consumers have been pretty positive.” Among encouraging economic signs, he said, are that people are handling household debt better and buying more durable goods, and that the jobs outlook has picked up.
The national jobless figure for October was 7.9 percent, up one-tenth of a point from September. Still, over the longer term, Schweitzer said, “we’ve made progress on the unemployment rate, but we’re still way north of where we want it. I’d like to see unemployment down to at least 6 percent.”
More than 200 attended each of the two days of the conference. Many were from companies from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio who who work in energy production, manufacturing, and academic and government research and development in those fields.
Pittsburgh-based Catalyst Connection, a nonprofit consulting firm for small and mid-sized manufacturers in the region, was a co-sponsor along with National Energy Technology laboratory, a researcher of fossil energy development.