Winter storms to distort U.S. jobless figures: Summers

White House Director of National Economic Council Larry Summers listens to a question from the audience after delivering the keynote address at the Future of Global Finance conference at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business in Washington, September 18, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House economic adviser Larry Summers said on Monday winter blizzards were likely to distort U.S. February jobless figures, which are due to be released on Friday.

“The blizzards that affected much of the country during the last month are likely to distort the statistics. So it’s going to be very important ... to look past whatever the next figures are to gauge the underlying trends,” Summers said in an interview with CNBC, according to a transcript.

Construction activity was hit particularly hard by the storms, but many restaurants and stores also had to close, putting the brakes on hiring plans and temporarily throwing some employees out of work.

Summers, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, also said the United States was closely monitoring Greece’s debt problems and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was encouraged by what he had heard from European officials about the issue.

“With respect to Europe, I am obviously very concerned about what’s happening in Greece and Portugal, in Spain, in Italy, on the European continent,” Summers said.

“I think there have been increasing signs of recognition both in Greece and in the major countries of Europe that this is a situation that has to be managed; that combination of getting the Greek budget under better control and providing more support is necessary to stabilize this situation.”

Summers brushed aside speculation that he was interested in changing jobs.

“I like what I’m doing,” he said. “My view is if the president asks me to do something in which I think I can make a contribution, the right approach to it is to say yes, and that’s why I’m very pleased to be here working at the National Economic Council.”

Reporting by Jeff Mason and Ross Colvin; editing by Chris Wilson