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Fed chief Bernanke: Education is the best investment for workers and for the economy

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Education is the best investment not only for workers but also for the economy in a time of continuing competitive strain, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday.

"Education — lifelong education for everyone — from toddlers to workers well advanced in their careers — is indeed an excellent investment for individuals and society as a whole," said Bernanke. He spent most of his professional life as a teacher and is married to one.

Economists have long recognized that the skills of the work force are an important source of economic growth, the Fed chairman said in a speech.

Although the United States has long been a leader in expanding educational opportunities, it also has long grappled with challenges such as troubling high-school dropout rates, particularly for minority and immigrant youths, as well as frustratingly slow and uneven progress in raising test scores, he said.

Added Bernanke: "Upgrading skills through continuing education and training outside the job is also important, particularly in an environment in which workers can face displacement from international competition or technological advance."

Bernanke, who spent 17 years teaching economics at Princeton University, made his comments in a speech to an education and work force summit held here by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He took over the Fed in February 2006, succeeding longtime chairman Alan Greenspan.

In his speech, Bernanke did not provide any hints about the Fed's next move on interest rates. He also didn't discuss the state of the economy.

In a strong statement about the economy, the Fed last week slashed a key interest rate by a half percentage point in a move to ensure that a housing meltdown and credit crunch don't throw the economy into recession. It was the first time in four years the Fed lowered this rate.

The rate cut comes as the U.S. employment climate has shown its first major crack. Total employment dropped in August by a net 4,000 jobs. It was the first such loss in four years. The unemployment rate, now at 4.6 percent, is expected to climb close to 5 percent by year end.


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