The U.S. economy is almost strong enough to allow the Federal Reserve to begin raising interest rates, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said on Thursday.

While he noted unemployment would likely remain elevated for some time, Lockhart said the U.S. central bank should not wait too long before beginning to tighten the reins.

The time is approaching when it will be appropriate to consider recalibrating interest rate policy. I do not believe that time has yet arrived, Lockhart said in the prepared text of a speech.

The conditions that require a change of policy are not yet at hand. However, as the economy continues to improve and financial markets find firmer ground, extraordinarily low policy rates will not be needed to promote recovery and will become inconsistent with maintaining price stability.

Lockhart is not a voting member of the central bank's Federal Open Market Committee this year.