Those expectations have become deeply anchored and, some argue, encouraged by the Fed's reluctance to increase rates even as the economy has approached its employment and inflation targets.
Analysts who follow the Fed complain that its framework has become confusing: low unemployment and inflation close to the 2 percent target would not seem consistent with a policy rate more aligned to a recession.
The assorted views of regional bank presidents and board members in recent weeks muddy the waters further. They have ranged from warnings of runaway inflation to suggestions the Fed should increase its inflation target because prices are so weak.
Thrown into the mix as well have been calls for a full-blown policy overhaul, and a suspicion that the economy may be stuck in a rut with little anyone can do about it.
Among that chorus of voices, Lael Brainard, a former Obama administration official and since June 2014 a Fed governor, has become a central figure in shaping the image of a Fed that errs on the side of caution when interpreting data and events.
Since the rate debate intensified last year, Brainard has spoken ahead of five out of the six key policy meetings, laying out her view that the U.S. recovery could not be taken for granted in a world of potentially perpetual economic weakness. The quarterly meetings that end with a news conference are considered the most likely sessions for Fed action.
She repeated that line last week and called for "prudence," effectively stamping out any rate rise speculation.
Brainard's argument seemed prescient last summer when she presented it the first time. The following 12 months brought market volatility linked to China's economic weakness and later concerns about the fallout from Britain's vote to leave the European Union. The turmoil weighed on the Fed's outlook for the U.S. economy.
Things have since calmed, and through it all the U.S. economy has continued to generate jobs. Equity markets are up so far this year, while volatility in the U.S. bond market is near its lowest level since late 2014.
To be sure, a Bank of America/Merrill Lynch measure on expected swings in the bond market in three months did pick up after the European Central Bank refrained from extending its 1 trillion plus euro bond purchase program.
Uncertainty about Bank of Japan policy, and possible swings in the dollar that could hurt U.S. manufacturers, remains a risk.
But to some, those risks have become less important than the uncertainty stemming from the Fed itself.
JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon said last week it was the right time for the Fed to move, a call echoed by the country's credit union sector.
"Folks in the credit union world — the majority want the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates," said Steve Rick, chief economist for CUNA Mutual Group, an insurer and financial company whose products are sold through credit unions.
"A quarter point is not going to kill the economy at all. But you would have banks more willing and credit unions more willing to lend if they believe interest rates were giving a clear signal," Rick said.