By Scott Spoerry
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. economy's growth rate will pick up over the rest of 2011, to nearly 3 percent, according to projections presented to Congress Wednesday by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
In the Fed's twice yearly monetary report to Congress, Bernanke said in prepared testimony that growth in the first half of the year slowed from an annual rate of 2-3/4 percent in 2010 to only 2 percent so far this year. But the Fed chairman said the combined assessment of the Federal Open Market committee is, "that the pace of the economic recovery will pick up," adding that the "central tendency" of the FOMC projections is for growth of 2.7 to 2.9 percent annual growth over the full year (which implies an even higher growth rate for the second half of 2011 by itself).
"Notably better performance that we have seen so far," which includes a projection of 3.3 to 3.7 percent growth for 2012, is the way Bernanke described the economy for the medium term.
The Fed says the latest unemployment data attests to the weakness of the labor market and forecasts an unemployment rate of 8.6 to 8.9 percent for the fourth quarter of this year, with a reduction to 7.8 to 8.2 percent at the end of 2012 and 7.0 to 7.5 percent by the end of 2013.