WASHINGTON — A resurgent U.S. economy has emerged from a long struggle with high unemployment and weak growth. And the Federal Reserve seems poised to recognize the sustained improvement.

In a statement it will issue after a policy meeting ends Wednesday, the Fed may no longer say it plans to keep a key interest rate near zero for a “considerable time.” If so, the Fed would be signaling that it’s moving closer to raising rates – eventually.

Yet even if it drops the “considerable time” phrase, few envision any imminent rate hike. Most economists think the Fed will wait until June to raise short-term rates for the first time since it cut them to record lows in 2008 during the financial crisis. And some think that as long as inflation stays below the Fed’s target rate of 2 percent, it could wait longer.

Low rates can encourage borrowing and spending and fuel growth. But if left too low for too long, they can accelerate inflation.

“I think the odds are that the Fed will drop the ‘considerable time’ wording, but I think some people are making more out of that change than they should,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.

Swonk said she thinks that even if that wording is removed, the Fed will stress that the timing of a rate hike will be driven by the economy’s performance, not by any preset timetable. If the job market and the economy, led by recent gains in construction, auto purchases and retail sales, keep improving, a rate hike could come sooner. Yet if the economy slows unexpectedly – or if sinking oil prices keep inflation persistently below the Fed’s target – it might be delayed.

The debate inside the Fed is pivoting on which of those forces – an improved economy or excessively low inflation – should outweigh the other. Complicating the Fed’s decision is that other major central banks – in Europe, Japan and China, for example are moving in the reverse direction to keep rates down to support slowing economies. When central banks move in opposite directions, they risk causing disruptions in the global flow of capital.

The minutes of the Fed’s last two meetings showed that officials discussed changing the “considerable time” language. But some worried that doing so might be misread to mean the first rate increase would come soon. In the end, the phrasing was retained.

Economists say the Fed might be less concerned now about a negative reaction from investors, especially if it stresses that any rate hike would hinge on the economic data.

Some analysts say “considerable time” could be replaced by language that says the Fed will be “patient” in deciding when to raise rates. In recent weeks, several Fed officials have used that word to describe how the Fed will proceed.