NEW YORK — US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said on Sunday said that US unemployment numbers, which stalled earlier this month, could resume their decline ahead of November's election in which the economy will top voters' concerns.

"If the economy keeps growing at a moderate pace, then, yes, more people will be back to work and you should see a gradual reduction in the unemployment rate," Geithner told ABC television.

Speaking on the program "This Week," Geithner said it is "obviously still a very tough economy out there," following the economic meltdown that occurred around the time his boss, US President Barack Obama, was entering the White House.

Geithner said the slow pace of the recovery is to be expected, given the depths to which the global economy had sunk.

"I think it's not surprising, given the scale of the damage the crisis caused and how much damage you still see out there," he said.

"But if you look at the evidence, the economy is getting stronger," he said, again tempering his optimism however by adding, "we have a ways to go still, a lot of challenges still ahead."

New claims for US unemployment benefits rose for the second consecutive week after falling to a four-year low, official data showed last week in a report signaling a rise in layoffs.

The Labor Department reported 380,000 initial jobless claims were filed in the week ended April 7, an increase of 13,000, or 3.5 percent, from the prior week's upwardly revised estimate.

The number was the highest since January, but the overall trend in claims has been in retreat as conditions slowly improve in the troubled job market.

The US economy created only 120,000 jobs in March, much lower than the 200,000 forecast by economists.