Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell struck a middle ground between inflation hawks and doves by hinting that the central bank is moving in the direction of tapering off its bond-buying program. However, Powell did not commit to any specific dates for when this would begin.

In a highly anticipated address to kickoff the Fed’s annual symposium for global central bank chiefs in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Powell cautioned that these labor shortages as well as the “near-term risk” of the COVID-19 Delta variant required continued monitoring before making any major policy shifts. He warned that history is replete with examples of how an “ill-timed” policy decision could hurt the recovery.

“Today, with substantial slack remaining in the labor market and the pandemic continuing, such a mistake could be particularly harmful,” Powell said. “We know that extended periods of unemployment can mean lasting harm to workers and to the productive capacity of the economy.”

While still maintaining a deliberative pace to further changes, Powell echoed his regional Fed counterparts when signaling that the bank’s $120 billion monthly bond purchases could soon be tapered. Fed chiefs like Kansas City Fed Chairwoman Esther George, who introduced Powell ahead of his speech, have commented that the time is right to cut asset purchases before it begins doing more harm than good.

Even if the Fed begins cutting back on its purchases, Powell made it a point that this would not signal any changes to near-zero long term interest rates.

“The timing and pace of the coming reduction in asset purchases will not be intended to carry a direct signal regarding the timing of interest rate liftoff, for which we have articulated a different and substantially more stringent test,” Powell explained.

Powell also took the time to walk through the gains and challenges experienced by the U.S. economy as it trudges along in its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Powell highlighted that unemployment dropped sharply from its peak of 14% when COVID-19 shutdown large portions of the country to a more managable 5.4%. While acknowledging the danger of the Delta variant, the Fed chief said that “the prospects are good for continued progress toward maximum employment."

On the same day as Powell’s address at Jackson Hole, the U.S. Commerce Department released new data that showed the Personal Consumption Expenditures price index, the Fed’s inflation measure of choice, jumped 0.4%, matching expectations.

Last month’s data for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) also showed a drop from 0.9% in June to 0.5% in July, suggesting that the burgeoning demand that accompanied reopenings may be slowing.

Powell reiterated that the Fed was sticking to a recently adopted policy from July that it would be comfortable allowing inflation to run for a period of time above its benchmark target of a 2% average.

In response to critics who contend that the central bank is enabling inflation to head in a worrisome direction, Powell remained confident that the proper balance was being struck and that the Fed was ready to adjust policy as needed.