Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 17:47 UK

Ben Bernanke cautious on US recovery

US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke
Mr Bernanke said the recovery still faced "significant restraints"

The chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, has said that the US still faces "difficult choices" in cutting the country's deficit.

In prepared comments to Congress' Joint Economic Committee, he said that action could not be delayed.

Mr Bernanke added that weakness in the construction sector was still weighing on the economy.

His cautious comments about the recovery come despite data showing a 1.6% increase in March retail sales.

"Addressing the country's fiscal problems will require difficult choices, but postponing them will only make them more difficult," Mr Bernanke said.

"Significant restraints on the pace of the recovery remain, including weakness in both residential and non-residential construction and the poor fiscal condition of many states and local governments."

But he added that there were some encouraging signs for the economy.

Job cuts were slowing and consumer spending continued to increase in the first two months of the year, he said.

However, he went on to express particular concern about the high level of long-term unemployment.

In March, 44% of the unemployed had been without a job for six months or more.

BBC World Service's economics correspondent Andrew Walker says the issue especially concerns economists because people can lose skills and motivation, which makes it increasingly difficult to get a job even when there are opportunities.

Some 8.5 million jobs have been lost in the US as a result of the recession.



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