In December, it set a goal of keeping its key short-term interest rate near zero until unemployment has fallen below 6.5 percent. Unemployment in January stood at 7.9 percent and many economists believe it will not drop below 6.5 percent until late 2015 at the earliest.
The Fed's low-interest-rate policies were approved on an 11-1 vote at the January meeting, although minutes of those discussions showed that a minority of Fed officials expressed concerns about the current level of the bond purchase program.
However, Bernanke's appearances before Congress this week and in his Friday speech sent a strong signal that he still believes the low-rate policies are needed to provide support for an economy still burdened by high unemployment.
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