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Bernanke sees risks in further steps to spur jobs

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that the Fed can't take additional steps to try to ease high unemployment without escalating inflation.

If inflation were to accelerate, the Fed would have to raise rates to slow borrowing and spending and blunt price increases. Hiring might then slow.

Speaking to reporters, Bernanke became the first chairman in the Fed's 98-year history to begin holding regular news conferences. The session, the first of three scheduled news conferences this year, is part of Bernanke's long-standing campaign to make the Fed more transparent and to cast himself as open and accessible.

In fielding questions, he sketched a picture of an economy growing steadily but still weighed down by a prolonged period of unemployment, now at 8.8 percent. He acknowledged the pain that is causing, noting that around 45 percent of the unemployed have been without a job for six months or longer.

"We know the consequences of that can be very distressing because people who are out of work for a long time, their skills tend to atrophy," Bernanke said.

But he added:


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