WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke maintained that the economy was continuing to grow at a moderate pace, despite the recent sharp deceleration in job growth and a slowdown in economic output in large part because of government spending cuts.
In remarks Thursday before the Congress' Joint Economic Committee, Bernanke noted the weakening of hiring this spring as job growth slowed to an average of 75,000 a month in April and May from 225,000 in the first three months of the year.
However, Bernanke said the slowing may have been exaggerated by issues related to the warm winter and the end of what he called a spurt of "catch-up hiring" on the part of employers who had eliminated payrolls aggressively during and just after the recession.
Moreover, Bernanke said that consumer spending has been "relatively well sustained" and that the recent declines in energy prices should help boost purchasing power, despite modest income growth. And even in the face of the deepening troubles in Europe, the Fed chairman said that demand for U.S. exports had held up well.