While Wall Street and many economists have forecast a recession this year, James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, isn't betting on one.

"The rumors of the imminent demise of the economy are greatly exaggerated," he said Friday at the Economic Club of Minnesota, where Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari questioned him about interest rates, the economy and the recent banking turmoil.

Bullard pointed to Friday's stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs report as proof. The unemployment rate, which dropped to 3.4%, is the lowest since 1969. Bullard also noted it was the 12th-consecutive jobs report to exceed Wall Street's expectations.

"Guys, maybe you should change your model a little bit," he jabbed.

Instead of a recession, Bullard said, the more likely scenario — or his "base case" — is for slow economic growth along with a somewhat softer labor market and declining inflation. That would qualify as a so-called soft landing, what Fed policymakers have angled for as they've aggressively raised interest rates in the past year or so — putting the economy at greater risk of recession — in order to tame high inflation.

Bullard, a Minnesota native, serves on the Fed's rate-setting committee, but unlike fellow member Kashkari, he does not have a vote on the panel this year.

Bullard said he supported this week's approval by the Fed of the 25 basis-point increase, which pushed interest rates above 5%. He told reporters afterward that he will wait to decide whether to recommend a pause or another increase at the June meeting based on the latest economic data.

Bullard said he doesn't believe that unemployment must rise in order for inflation to fall. Instead, he said he thinks the Fed can bring down inflation while the tight labor market cools off and returns to normal.

As for recessions, he said there have been only four in the past 40 years.

"So it would be a minor miracle, indeed, if we could happen to predict one six months or nine months ahead of time," Bullard said.

At the same time, he acknowledged there are elevated risks of a recession. One example of a shock that could trigger a downturn, he said, is an expansion of the war in Ukraine.

Kashkari asked Bullard if he thought the recent banking turmoil could also risk tipping the U.S. into a recession.

Bullard replied that the nation's biggest banks are doing pretty well. Meanwhile, he said, recently failed Silicon Valley Bank was "quirky," with its base of venture capitalists and startups as well as its large number of uninsured deposits.

Other regional banks are nothing like Silicon Valley Bank, Bullard said. He said those banks are more conservatively run and more conventional in how they handle liquidity in addition to their loan portfolio.

Bullard grew up in Forest Lake and graduated from St. Cloud State University before receiving a doctorate in economics from Indiana University. On Friday, he showcased his Minnesota roots by wearing socks adorned with loons.

"I thought that would be fun," he said later, "but some people may have thought I just had a weird design."

Star Tribune staff writer Evan Ramstad contributed to this report.