The Federal Reserve Building in Washington, DC is surrounded by stone. This is Creole marble from Georgia. The stone is considered relatively soft, which makes it easier to cut. The marble projects a majestic image of stability and determination just blocks from the Potomac River.

The central bank’s strength will be tested in the coming months. Does he have the determination to keep raising interest rates (or keep them higher) to squeeze inflation if the labor market becomes shaky?

The final test will take place on Friday next week with the release of the September jobs report.

Make no mistake that the job market was strong. Since the beginning of the year, more than 435,000 jobs have been created on average every month. That’s more than double what it was in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been six months since the Fed reversed course and began raising its target rate for short-term borrowing as part of its fight against inflation. The first step was small and belated. Since then, bankers have accelerated rate hikes and tightened public comments in hopes of cooling inflation and restoring confidence in the Fed’s reputation for effectively managing America’s financial system and, by extension, the economy.

The Fed is between a proverbial rock and a, er, marble. Strong hiring and wage growth in September will be seen as further evidence of more interest rate hikes – higher and longer. A weakening labor market will be seen as a sign of worsening economic conditions, forcing the central bank to ease its fight against inflation before it ends.

Long-term investors are squeezed out. This year’s bear market wiped out 80% of the stock market’s gains, fueled by the trillions of dollars in pandemic aid that poured into the US economy. The wealth effect of this COVID-induced rally has diminished.

High pressure and heat create marble. A beautiful stone appears only after thousands of years. Economic pressures between inflation and the threat of a weakening labor market continue to mount for companies and consumers. Investors are increasingly convinced that pressure means a more fragile economy.

Tom Hudson is a financial journalist and director of content at WAMU Public Radio in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter @HudsonsView.