CHICAGO, SEPT. 14 -- Michael H. Moskow has been on the job as president of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank for two weeks and, as he explained yesterday, "I am on the steep part of the learning curve."
Unlike all but one of the other 11 presidents of the Fed's regional banks, Moskow has no previous experience working for the Federal Reserve System or a financial institution before being chosen this summer to replace Silas Keehn, who retired.
However, Moskow, 56, a professor of management at the Northwestern University business school, showed at a press conference here that he was far enough along the learning curve to quote Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan accurately, endorse the central bank's boost in short-term interest rates this year and avoid saying whether he believes there is a short-run trade-off between unemployment and inflation.
As Marvin Kosters, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington who has known Moskow since they both were on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Nixon administration, put it, "Mike is a quick study."
The problem facing Moskow and the rest of the Fed was highlighted yesterday by the release of one of the board's periodic surveys of economic conditions across the country. The survey found growth picking up last month in regions that had been lagging "while most of the stronger areas saw growth plateau."
The survey, conducted in preparation for a Fed policy-making session Sept. 27, did find signs that consumer spending and housing are not rising as rapidly as they were earlier in the year. But there was no definitive sign of the slower growth Fed officials are seeking to keep inflation from worsening.
Moskow said that in the Chicago Fed district in particular, the region's tight labor market has led to some increases in wages temporary help firms are having to pay to attract workers, but "we have not seen any wage pressure up to this point for permanent employees."
However, the new Fed president ducked most questions about the national economic outlook, the value of the dollar and the future course of Fed policy.
Moskow has had separate careers in academia, business and government. He said that he had not thought of working for the Fed and was not aware of Keehn's pending retirement until an executive search firm called him in June.
"After I got off the floor, I started asking questions. ... As I talked to people, I became more interested," Moskow said. Both the Fed and the Chicago bank, whose district covers all or part of five Midwestern states, are "unique institutions," and his new job will allow him to stay in the region while having a role in national policies again, he said.
Before moving to the Northwestern faculty two years ago, Moskow was deputy trade representative during the last two years of the Bush administration. His other federal government jobs, in the Nixon and Ford administrations, include assistant secretary of policy development and research at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, director of the Council on Wage and Price Stability and undersecretary of labor.
In 1977, Moskow began a career as an executive at several large firms in this region, including Esmark Inc., Velsicol Chemical Corp. and Dart and Kraft Inc. Before joining the Council of Economic Advisers, he taught economics and labor relations at Temple University, Lafayette College and Drexel University.
Moskow said that he does not believe his lack of banking experience will be a handicap. He will, Moskow said, "bring valuable perspectives and relevant experience" to Fed policy-making sessions.
"You know, it's a kind of interesting appointment," Kosters said. "I'm not sure it's good to have only people with a background in banking and finance on the Federal Open Market Committee," the central bank's top policy-making group. "There is room for diversity there."