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More Fed Easing 'A Close Call': Fed's Lockhart

Atlanta Federal Reserve President and CEO Dennis Lockhart
Source: frbatlanta.org
Atlanta Federal Reserve President and CEO Dennis Lockhart

Tepid U.S. economic growth and stubbornly high unemployment makes more stimulus from the Federal Reserve "a close call," a top Fed policymaker told CNBC in an interview Thursday.

Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, who has assembled with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and other global central bankers at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., characterized growth in the world's largest economy as "very modest." (Read more:What Do Markets Expect From Jackson Hole?)

The torpid pace of economic activity is "not the kind of growth that is likely to bring great progress in bringing down unemployment," the central banker told CNBC's "Squawk Box." Lockhart is a voting member on the Fed's Open Market Committee (learn more), the policy-setting board that sets interest rates and determines the conduct of monetary policy.

When asked about the prospect of a third round of bond buying (learn more) from the Fed, Lockhart said it was a "close call." However, he laid down a marker for how weak the economy would need to be before the central bank might act. (Read more:Fed May Ease If Economy Falters: Lockhart)

"If we were to see deterioration from this point, let’s say a persistence of job growth numbers that were well below 100,000 per month, or see signs of disinflation that could signal the onset of deflation, then there wouldn’t be much of a question about policy," Lockhart said.

The latest U.S. nonfarm payrolls report showed the economy added 163,000 jobs last month, above consensus estimates but still far below the level most economists say is necessary to absorb new workers and current job-seekers.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate has lodged stubbornly above 8 percent, an area where it's remained since the onset of the financial crisis. On Thursday, the number of Americans filing for initial jobless benefets remained at 374,000 — close to the psychologically-important 400,000 benchmark many analysts say is the hallmark of a stagnant economy. (Read more:Jobless Claims Hold Flat; Spending Tops Income Gains)

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