Janet L. Yellen, who chairs the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, has told Clinton administration colleagues she will resign soon for personal reasons and return to California, administration officials said yesterday.
Yellen's departure would be the second in recent weeks by a top administration economic policymaker, following last month's resignation announcement by Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. But Yellen, though admired by her colleagues for her thoughtful and low-key manner, has played a far less influential role than Rubin, whose powerful department dominated on most major economic issues.
At times in the past, the council's chairmanship has been a position with clout -- notably during the Kennedy administration, when it was held by Walter Heller, and the Ford administration, when it was held by Alan Greenspan, now chairman of the Federal Reserve. But in recent years the post has tended to pale in influence when compared with other senior policymaking jobs, especially in the Clinton administration, which established another policy bureaucracy -- the National Economic Council -- inside the White House.
Yellen, 52, was named to head the council in late 1996, following Clinton's reelection, after serving on the Federal Reserve Board. Before joining the Fed in 1994, she was a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Her husband, George Akerlof, is also a Berkeley economist and has had to divide his time between his position there and a post at the Brookings Institution.
The job has been frustrating for her "to some extent, but I don't think more so than other people who've had the job," said an economist friend. "The basic story is, she had done enough. She had served in the job about as long as a typical CEA chairman had served, and decided it was enough."
An administration official said Yellen "has let people know that she's on a relatively short time frame," adding that because of the advance notice, the administration has already begun reviewing a short list of candidates it is considering to replace her. "It's pretty well along," the official said. "They have a pretty narrow list."