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Yellen To Say Economy Needs Support, New Data Seem To Agree

As Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen prepares to tell the Senate Banking Committee that she supports continuing the central bank's policy of buying billions of dollars' worth of bonds to boost the economy, there's fresh evidence that the relatively slow economic recovery continues to be ... relatively slow.

The Employment and Training Administration said Thursday that there were 339,000 first-time claims for jobless benefits filed last week, down by just 2,000 from the week before.

Although the pace of those claims is well below its recent peak of 670,000 (in March 2009) and is back where it was before the economy slipped into recession in December 2007, it's still above the 250,000-to-300,000 level of the late '90s and early 2000s, when the economic growth was stronger.

Yellen, who President Obama has nominated to succeed Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman, has her confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee. In her prepared testimony, she states that:

"The Federal Reserve is using its monetary policy tools to promote a more robust recovery. A strong recovery will ultimately enable the Fed to reduce its monetary accommodation and reliance on unconventional policy tools such as asset purchases. I believe that supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy."

Financial markets are interpreting that passage as a signal that she'll support continuing the Fed's stimulus policy into next year.

NPR's John Ydstie previewed Yellen's confirmation hearing on Thursday'sMorning Edition.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.