The U.S. economy is unlikely to fall into recession for another three years, absent an unexpected event, a top Federal Reserve official said Friday.
Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said the U.S. economy is "on a satisfactory track" of expanding 2 percent to 3 percent per year.
He told a group of business journalists meeting in Manhattan that higher growth rates would only come with additional government spending on roads and other building projects, changes in government regulations and long-term financial balance. He said that interest rate changes by the Fed, alone, wouldn't accelerate growth.
Asked about the timing of the next downturn, Lockhart said: "My basic outlook does not see a recession anytime in the next three years or, for that matter, a bit longer than that. . . . I'm confident we can continue with this moderate expansion."
The 2007-09 recession, the worst since the Great Depression, has been followed by a slow-growth recovery over six years. The Fed has kept short-term interest rates near zero percent to help sustain the recovery.
Lockhart sits on the Federal Reserve's rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee. He signaled Friday the 12-member committee could wait until its December meeting to raise rates, instead of later this month.
New economic data have increased uncertainty about the recovery's strength and the potential harm of a rate hike, he said. More data will be available for the committee's December session.
"Recent information on the economy gives rise to some ambiguity," he told the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. "I perceive a touch more downside risk" to raising interest rates "than I saw some weeks ago."
Separately Friday, William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said the availability of more economic data could postpone an interest rate hike to December.
In an interview with CNBC, Dudley said while a decision to raise rates at the Oct. 27-28 FOMC meeting was "possible," he added: "Have we seen enough information between September and October to convince us to do in October what we didn't do in September? That would be the question I would ask."