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WASHINGTON Dec 23 Americans looking for work
are unlikely to find new jobs before next spring, U.S. Treasury
Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday, though he
insisted the economy was on the mend.
"Most economists would say that, by the spring, we'll have
positive job growth," Geithner said in an interview on ABC
Television's "Good Morning America," conceding that it is
unlikely there was any job growth in December.
"The economy's growing, it's getting better, getting
stronger, and I think most people would say the economy is
strengthening going into the end of the year ... but the key
thing is when do we get job growth back," he said.
Since September 2007, when the U.S. economy slipped into
recession, 7.2 million jobs have been lost as businesses from
Wall Street to manufacturing companies slashed payrolls.
There were dramatically fewer job losses in November than
expected, when employers cut employment by 11,000. But the
unemployment rate still is 10 percent, and Geithner said
regaining job creation was vital for recovery.
Figures for December employment will not be released by the
government until early January.
Geithner said American optimism has taken a beating.
"There is still a very tough economy. The crisis just
caused a huge amount of damage to peoples' basic confidence in
their economic future, and you see that in business confidence,
consumer confidence too," he said.
Geithner said people should be more hopeful about 2010.
"You can see the beginnings of that process of healing,
confidence gradually improving, and that's something we want to
work very hard to reinforce," he said.
The government poured hundreds of billions of dollars of
taxpayer money into propping up U.S. banks during the financial
crisis. The money is now being repaid, and big paydays are
resuming on Wall Street as bonuses are handed out.
Public anger at banks' reckless lending and exceptionally
high pay remains intense, but Geithner refused to say which
banks he thought were slowest to respond to that anger.
"That's not a judgment for me to make or that I want to
share with you," he said. Geithner was seen as a Wall Street
figure himself as president of the New York Federal Reserve
Bank before he took over the Treasury portfolio last January.
He shrugged off criticism that some Congressional members
heaped on him and focused on the administration's efforts to
calm the crisis that was raging just a year ago.
"I knew from the beginning that this was going to be very
hard and tough, and the things that we thought were going to be
necessary were going to be deeply unpopular on both sides of
the aisle," Geithner said.
"But what we did to break the back of this financial panic
was hugely effective at much lower cost than anybody
expected," he added. "We've had $90 billion come back from
banks, banks are repaying with interest, and that's just one
measure of how quickly we've been able to get stability back."
(Reporting by Glenn Somerville; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)