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Treasury Secretary: ‘We Can’t Tell Yet’ If Growth Has Stalled

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Sunday he believed the economy is “gradually getting stronger,” but said “we can’t tell yet” whether growth has stalled as it has in previous spring months during the Obama administration.

“We can’t tell yet,” Geithner said on ABC's This Week when asked if the same pattern from previous years was repeating, with strong growth in early months of the year, followed by a slow-down, as has happened the last two years.

“But if you look back at what happened in 2010 and 2011, you’re right that you saw some early strength in the beginning of the year,” Geithner said.  “But then what happened was, the crisis in Europe in 2010 and 2011 and then the crisis in Japan and then the oil shock caused growth to slow.  And then in ’11, it was made worse by the -- by all the political drama around the debt limit, which was very damaging to confidence.”

Geithner said the economy is still showing signs of improvement, despite the March jobs report showing just 120,000 new jobs created -- far below predictions, and lower than the 200,000 plus jobs created in the last three months.

“If you look at the evidence, the economy is getting stronger,” Geithner said, citing higher profits, increased productivity and growing private investment.  “We have a ways to go still, a lot of challenges still ahead.  But the broad indicators are pretty encouraging.  They show an economy still growing.”

“We’d like it to be stronger and we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he added.  “But it’s getting better.”

Geithner acknowledged that not all Americans have felt that improvement, with a new ABC News/Washington Post poll last week showing that 76 percent of Americans still believe the country is in a recession.

“Well, it’s obviously still a very tough economy out there,” he said.  “And I think it’s not surprising, given the scale of the damage the crisis caused and how much damage you still see out there.”

Geithner said the continuing unemployment problem has limited individual income growth, but he said he does believe the unemployment rate will be lower on Election Day than it is today.

“If the economy keeps growing at a moderate pace, then, yes, the economy -- more people will be back to work and you should see a gradual reduction in the unemployment rate,” he said.

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