Yet the Fed is under rising pressure from inflationary "hawks" to start raising rates or risk having inflation veer out of control. Their critics, the "doves," who worry more about a still-subpar job market, say it's too soon to act.
Here are excerpts from Associated Press interviews with attendees at the conference about the friction between inflation and the job market — and whether Yellen is striking the right balance.
Martin Feldstein, Harvard economics professor, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan:
"I wish the Fed would be more explicit about being concerned about inflation. They were slow to communicate about inflation. Yellen gave a speech at the (International Monetary Fund) a few weeks ago in which she acknowledged that there were risks of financial instabilities but said that's not going to change our monetary policy.
"My sense is there's probably more inflation in the pipeline and closer (than Yellen thinks).
"Her eyes are on the underutilized labor resources. She'd like to be able to continue to bring that down.
"We may see inflation sooner than she thinks we're going to see, and I think if that happens, then I think they'll move the date (to raise rates) forward."
William Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO, Howard University economics professor, former assistant labor secretary under President Barack Obama:
"I think (the Fed is) still thinking too much in the framework of, 'We're waiting for inflation.' I think they have to re-configure this. The cost of unemployment has gone up, and so in making that choice between whether I raise interest rates to stir the economy or whether I pursue full employment, we just have to say: 'You know what? Inflation doesn't cost as much as unemployment.'
"(Yellen) is forcing them to be nuanced, so they can't get out of talking about this in a more nuanced way.
"If, for a little while, you have 3 or 4 percent inflation or maybe even 4.5 percent inflation, that's fine. Because we are so far away from full unemployment.
"But if you (raise interest rates), it's going to be arbitrary. It's going to be very broad. It's going to hurt managers, it's going to hurt professionals, it's going to hurt everyone."
"This is real damage to real people. You have to factor that cost. This is not free."