FOMC Minutes: “Uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook”

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, December 15-16, 2020. A few excerpts:

Participants continued to see the uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook as elevated, with the path of the economy highly dependent on the course of the virus. The positive vaccine news was seen as reducing downside risks over the medium term, and a number of participants saw risks to economic activity as more balanced than earlier. Still, participants saw significant uncertainties regarding how quickly the deployment of vaccines would proceed as well as how different members of the public would respond to the availability of vaccines. Participants cited several downside risks that could threaten the economic recovery. These risks included the possibility of significant additional fiscal policy support not materializing in a timely manner, the potential for further adverse pandemic developments—which could lead to more-stringent restrictions, more-severe business failures, and more permanent job losses—and the chance that trade negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union would not be concluded successfully before the December 31 deadline. As upside risks, participants mentioned the prospect that the release of pent-up demand, spurred by wider-scale vaccinations and easing of social distancing, could boost spending and bring individuals back to the labor force more quickly than currently expected as well as the possibility that fiscal policy developments could see measures that were larger than expected in amount or economic impact. Regarding inflation, participants generally viewed the risks as having become more balanced than they were earlier in the year, though most still viewed the risks as being weighted to the downside. As an upside risk to inflation, a few participants noted the potential for a stronger-than-expected recovery, coupled with the possible emergence of pandemic-related supply constraints, to boost inflation.
emphasis added