WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that the US economy is losing strength and repeated a pledge to try to boost growth if hiring remains weak.
The Fed took no new action after a two-day policy meeting. But in a statement released after the meeting, it appeared to signal a growing inclination to take further steps to lift the economy out of its funk.
The Fed noted that growth had slowed in the first half of the year, with job creation slackening and consumer spending tapering off.
The Fed reiterated its plan to hold its benchmark short-term interest rate at a record low near zero until at least late 2014.
The statement was slightly different than the one issued after the Fed’s last meeting, June 19-20.
The next big signal on the economy’s health comes Friday, when the Labor Department reports on hiring in July.
In addition to noting the economy had ‘‘decelerated,’’ the Fed’s policy making committee said it would ‘‘closely monitor incoming information’’ and ‘‘will provide additional accommodation as needed’’ to stimulate the economy and job creation.
In the June statement, the central bank said ‘‘the economy has been expanding moderately’’ and it ‘‘is prepared to take further action as appropriate.’’
Many economists believe the Fed could launch another program of buying government bonds and mortgage-backed securities in September if the economy does not improve. The goal of the program, known as quantitative easing, would be to drive long-term rates, which are already at record lows, even lower.
The Fed’s next move could depend on whether the European Central Bank, which meets Thursday, takes any action to stimulate growth in the 17 countries that use the euro.
The next big signal on the US economy’s health comes Friday, when the Labor Department reports on July hiring and unemployment trends.
Economists forecast that employers added 100,000 jobs in July. That would be slightly better than the 75,000-a-month average from April through June but below the healthy 226,000 average in the first three months of the year. The unemployment rate is expected to stay at 8.2 percent.
Economists will also be paying close attention when Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s speaks Aug. 31 at an annual economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
‘‘The Fed took no action at this meeting but strongly hinted that there will be further easing action at the next meeting in September,’’ said David Jones, chief economist at DMJ Advisors.
The Fed’s statement was approved on a vote of 11 to 1. Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, dissented for a fifth time this year. He objected to language in the statement about keeping short-term rates low until late 2014.
US economic growth slowed to an annual rate of just 1.5 percent from April through June, down from 2 percent in the first quarter and 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Fed officials have signaled their concern about job growth and consumer spending. Bernanke told Congress two weeks ago that the Fed is prepared to act if unemployment stays high.
Worries have also intensified the economy will fall off a ‘‘fiscal cliff’’ at the end of the year. That’s when tax increases and deep spending cuts will take effect unless Congress reaches a budget deal. A recession could follow, Bernanke has warned.
Economists also are concerned that the debt crisis in Europe could intensify. Borrowing costs are too high for many governments, including in Spain and Italy, and growth is slowing across the region as the effects of budget-cutting take hold. Unemployment hit a record 11.2 percent in June for the 17 countries that use the euro currency.
Expectations are rising that Europe’s central bank could try to jolt the region’s financial system through bond purchases or other measures. Last week, ECB president Mario Draghi said he was ready to ‘‘do whatever it takes’’ to save the euro currency union.
The Fed has already completed two programs aimed at driving down interest rates to encourage more borrowing and spending. It bought more than $2 trillion in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities, expanding its balance sheet above $2.8 trillion.
The Fed has been running a program since September in which it sells short-term Treasurys and buys longer-term Treasurys. Called Operation Twist, it will run through the end of the year and shift $667 billion from short-term to longer-term Treasurys
Even if the Fed launches a third round of bond purchases, few think that further lowering long-term rates would provide much benefit. Most businesses and consumers who aren’t borrowing now aren’t likely to change their minds if rates decline a bit more.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note is near its record low of 1.39 percent. The national average rate for a new-car loan barely tops 3 percent. And the average on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell below 3.5 percent last week for the first time on records dating back 60 years.