Recession Is Over, White House Adviser Says

Lawrence Summers.

President Obama's top economic adviser Lawrence Summers today for the first time predicted that job growth would begin as early as this spring.

"I believe that, as do most professional forecasters, that by spring, employment growth will start to be turning positive," Summers told ABC's "This Week."

It's the first time the White House has predicted job growth on such a short timetable.

Summers would not commit to a timeline during an earlier ABC News interview on Dec. 4, the day the last jobs report was released. That jobs report showed the national unemployment had dropped in November, from 10.2 percent previously, to 10 percent. At the time, Summer advised caution.

"Certainly we got an indication that some very serious problems were abating today, but no one should be declaring victory," he said then.

Yet Sunday, he touted those same numbers.

"Make no mistake, we were losing 700,000 a month when President Bush turned the economy over to President Obama. The number last month was 11,000," he said.

"These things happen in stages," he said. "First, GDP goes up. That has happened. Then, hours that are worked by workers who already have jobs go up. That's starting to happen. Then employment goes up. We got very close to that this year, this month, with only 11,000 jobs lost. And then unemployment starts to come down. ... Most professional forecasters are now looking for a return to job growth by spring."

Summers also said the recession was over.

"Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be," Summers said on ABC.

Council of Economic Advisers chairwoman Christina Romer agreed the recession was over in technical terms, but not in the minds of many people.

"You know, there's the official definition, and that talks about just when do you turn the corner, when do you go from plummeting to finally starting to go back up. And I think we have at least in terms of GDP reached that point," Romer said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

But, she added, "For the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering, the unemployment rate's still 10 percent."

"What I think the president's always said and what I firmly believe, you're not recovered until all those people that want to work are back to work," she said.

The White House's optimism comes after a week of activity by the president and Democrats to improve the economy.

Last Tuesday, the Obama administration announced it was extending the Troubled Asset Relief Program until October 2010 in an attempt to free up credit for small businesses to expand and for homeowners to secure their mortgages through the administration's housing program.

On Friday, the White House's pay czar, Ken Feinberg, released new rulings on the pay packages for some of the highest-paid employees at companies receiving what the administration deems "exceptional assistance" from the government.

Also on Friday, House Democrats passed financial reform legislation to tighten federal regulation of Wall Street, and create an agency to protect consumers from abusive lending practices, a fund to help failing banks and new rules for the trading of some of the financial instruments that helped cause the crisis.

Summers tied the president's health-care overhaul to efforts to reduce the federal deficit.

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