The politics also are messy. With Trump having relentlessly criticized the Fed for a year for keeping credit too tight, any move to lower rates could fan speculation on Wall Street and in Washington that Powell is knuckling under to the president.

Powell heard first-hand about the broad-based benefits of a tight jobs market at a Chicago Fed conference in June.

Help Wanted
“This is a great time” for economically-vulnerable Americans who’ve had trouble getting a job, Patrick Dujakovich, president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO, told the gathering. “There are a lot of prerequisites being waived” for getting hired.

Employers are taking on workers with limited skills and limited or no experience, and hiring Americans with criminal records and disabilities, who’ve struggled in the past to gain a foothold in the labor market. Companies are also being forced to raise wages to retain some lower-educated employees.

And after suffering disproportionately during the 2007-2009 recession and its aftermath, black and Hispanic people are benefiting as well, with their unemployment rates falling more steeply than the national average.

The Americans being helped the most by the tight labor market are “people at the bottom,’” said former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder, adding, “It’s not that opportunities for people with MBAs are getting bigger.”

Powell has made clear he sees more room to run. At a congressional hearing this month, he took issue with a suggestion that the U.S. has a hot labor market.

“To call something hot, you need to see some heat,” he said, noting that wage growth has picked up but not yet surged.

In a lively exchange at that same hearing with New York representative and social media star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Powell said the current 3.7% unemployment rate was “well within the range of potential estimates’’ of its long-run natural state.

That suggests he’s comfortable with joblessness remaining near half-century lows or perhaps even edging lower.