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Fed chief: economic diversity helped Queens

New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley

New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley Credit: Bloomberg News

Economic diversity helped insulate Queens from the worst of the recession, New York's top banker said today.

Citing a mix of air transport, manufacturing and service businesses, New York Federal Reserve Bank president William Dudley said employment in Queens only fell by 3 percent from its peak to the recession's depth. Employment in New York City as a whole dropped 4.5 percent, and nationwide by 7 percent.

Dudley said the borough's workforce stopped contracting in the first half of last year and probably has enjoyed "a sustained upturn." His comments came during a speech to about 120 business people at a Flushing hotel.

While New York City's economy has slowed a bit recently, Dudley said, "I would not be overly discouraged."

He continued, "Now, it's true both nationally and regionally, unemployment remains stubbornly high, but many indicators suggest that conditions are in place for stronger growth in the coming months."

Dudley also was upbeat about the Fed's ability to keep inflation in check. He said recent spikes in food and gasoline prices were likely temporary.

His optimism was greeted with some skepticism as two executives complained about high prices.

"I certainly acknowledge food prices are going up . . . But you have to focus on all prices. Some are going up but others are falling," Dudley said.

Executives chuckled amongst themselves and some shook their heads when Dudley cited Apple's new powerful iPad 2, which is selling for the same price as its predecessor.

His speech in Queens is part of a tour of regions served by the New York Fed. He hopes to visit Long Island in coming months. The New York Fed covers New York State, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.

Dudley also is vice chairman of the Fed's Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates. The committee will consider whether to change rates at a meeting Tuesday.

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