TIMOTHY GEITHNER, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Nice to see you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good to see you.
You know, I want to begin with a pretty startling number in our ABC News/"Washington Post" poll this week. It shows that 76 percent of the country thinks we're still in a recession.
What do you say to those Americans?
GEITHNER: Well, it's obviously still a very tough economy out there. 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.
But if you look at the evidence, the economy is getting stronger. 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. But it's getting better.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But last month's job report was much weaker than people had hoped for. Only about 121,000 jobs created. And the weekly unemployment claims took a big jump last week.
Are we seeing the pattern of the past couple of years repeated, a strong start to the year but then a stall-out in the spring?
GEITHNER: We can't tell yet. 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. 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're saying we can't...
GEITHNER: But those...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- we can't tell yet. so but does that mean you're not confident that we're going to keep creating jobs this year?
GEITHNER: No. I would say that, you know, the economy, again, is gradually getting stronger. And have more people going back to work and those are sort of good, encouraging signs.
Obviously, we've got a lot of challenges ahead and some risks and uncertainty ahead. And some of those risks are, of course, Europe is still going through a -- a difficult crisis. And Iran and oil still pose some risks to us.
But the available evidence is still, I think, pretty encouraging.
Again, what -- what we should be doing, though, is working with Congress to get growth stronger and get more Americans back to work. And that's what we're going to -- what we're going to keep trying to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to that in just a second.
Do you expect that unemployment will be lower today -- lower on election day than it is today?
GEITHNER: 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. You know, it's still very high. It's still going to take a long time to work through this. And, again, that's why it's so important that we stay focused on things that will strengthen the economy.