WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that without faster economic growth, it could take "a few more years" for unemployment to decline to a normal rate.
In an interview with ABC News, Bernanke says he is sleeping better these days because the U.S. financial system looks stronger, and threats from Europe's debt crisis look less worrisome. He says the jump in gas prices should have only a moderate effect on growth.
But Bernanke says the economy isn't strong enough to continue to reduce unemployment quickly. The unemployment rate has declined from 9 percent in September to the current 8.3 percent.
Further declines to a healthy level between 5 percent and 6 percent would require a pickup in economic growth, Bernanke says.