"The recovery clearly remains incomplete," Ben Bernanke said Friday in his final major address as Federal Reserve chairman.
With less than a month to go in his term, Bernanke said the US recovery should pick up steam this year as it puts the worst effects of the housing crisis behind it, and as Washington's fiscal tightening eases.
He spoke at the American Economic Association's annual meeting in Philadelphia. Fed vice chairwoman Janet Yellen is expected to succeed Bernanke next month if confirmed by the Senate on Monday.
The Fed chief noted the unemployment rate at 7 per cent "still is elevated," and many people had stopped looking for regular work.
As of December, only 63 per cent of Americans over age 16 either had a job or were looking for one. Before the recession, it was around 66 per cent, he said.
Bernanke defended the success of his bond-buying stimulus policy known as quantitative easing. He claimed the programme "helped promote the recovery."
He said the stimulus helped increase employment by 7.5 million jobs since 2008, helped real GDP grow in 16 of 17 quarters, boosted industrial production and helped equipment investment match or exceed pre-recession peaks.
Bernanke said last month that the policy was likely to continue at a gradually slowing rate through at least late 2014.
The central bank last month also reiterated that its key short-term bank interest rate, which has been at an unprecedented near-zero since December 2008, was likely to remain in place "for a considerable time."
On Friday, he boasted of increased transparency at the Fed.
"Fostering transparency and accountability at the Federal Reserve was one of my principal objectives when I became chairman in February 2006," Bernanke said.
"I had long advocated increased transparency and, in particular, a more explicit policy framework as ways to make monetary policy more predictable and more effective."