WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said that private sector demand will be "sufficient" to spur a moderate economic recovery in coming months, but he added that more time is needed to recover job losses.
"A recovery in economic activity appears to have begun in the second half of last year," Bernanke told the Joint Economic Committee.
Bernanke's speech was mostly upbeat, noting all the different areas where the economy has picked up. He pointed to higher GDP rates, increasing auto sales and a strengthening financial system as catalysts for the Federal Reserve to wind down programs that were propping up those sectors.
"Going forward, consumer spending should be aided by a gradual pickup in jobs and earnings, the recovery in household wealth from recent lows, and some improvement in credit availability," Bernanke said.
He cautioned that the unemployment rate and the housing market remain areas of concern.
"I am particularly concerned about the fact that, in March, 44% of the unemployed had been without a job for six months or more," Bernanke said. "Long periods without work erode individuals' skills and hurt future employment prospects. Younger workers may be particularly adversely affected if a weak labor market prevents them from finding a first job or from gaining important work experience."
Bernanke also spoke about the need for policymakers to start tackling the growing federal deficit, to maintain "the confidence of the public and financial markets."
Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, asked Bernanke about whether the nation could face problems like Greece or Ireland, with countries doubting the U.S.'s ability to control its debt.
Bernanke stressed that the United States has a more "diversified," economy, but acknowledged that, "at some point, the markets will make a judgment about our political will to achieve longer term stability."
Walmart, facing higher labor costs due to raise in starting wage, is cutting workers' hours at some stores. More
A conservative think tank is sponsoring a Times Square billboard as a tribune to its opposition to a new minimum wage rule for fast food workers in New York state. More
Looking for something good on Netflix? These entertaining films will help you learn more about finance and investing. More