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Yellen commits Fed to boost still-weak U.S. economy

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on "Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy." at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

By Jonathan Spicer

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen vowed on Wednesday to do all that she can to boost a U.S. economy that is running well short of the central bank's objectives.

"The economy continues to operate considerably short of these objectives" of maximum employment and stable prices, Yellen said according to prepared remarks at a swearing-in ceremony at the central bank in Washington.

"The economy is stronger and the financial system is sounder," added Yellen, who succeeded Ben Bernanke on February 1. "We have come a long way, but we have farther to go."

The brief comments were a broad reiteration of what she told two congressional committees last month: that the United States appears to be clawing its way back from the 2007-2009 recession but that the Fed is in no rush to tighten policy.

The world's biggest economy expanded at a decent 2.4 percent rate in the fourth quarter and has slowed this year due in part to severe weather. The U.S. unemployment rate is down to 6.6 percent, from a recessionary high of 10 percent in 2009, but it remains high and jobs growth is erratic.

The Fed targets 2 percent inflation and wants to see joblessness fall to around 5.5 percent.

"Too many Americans still can't find a job or are forced to work part-time," Yellen said on Wednesday, underscoring her long-standing focus on the troubled labor market.

"I promise to never forget the individual lives, experiences and challenges that lie behind the statistics we use to gauge the health of the economy," she said. "When we make progress toward our goals, each job that is created lifts this burden for someone who is better equipped to be a good parent, to build a stronger community, and to contribute to a more prosperous nation."

Turning to Wall Street reforms, Yellen said the Fed will move forward "quickly and responsibly" to complete the work that remains to safeguard the financial system.

(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)