Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in an interview aired on Tuesday, said the unemployment rate could rise for a couple of months before it goes down, potentially deepening Democrats' problems in the November congressional elections.

It's possible you're going to have a couple of months where it goes up, Geithner said on ABC's Good Morning America in an interview taped on Monday.

But what we expect to see ... is an economy that's gradually healing, of course we want to do what we can to reinforce that process because it's not growing back as quickly as we'd like.

A rising unemployment rate before November mid-term congressional elections will be an unwelcome development for Democrats seeking to keep control of Congress as President Barack Obama's popularity has already been battered by a sluggish economy.

A Reuters economist survey estimates that the unemployment rate rose to 9.6 percent in July from 9.5 percent in June. The July report is scheduled to be released on Friday.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Geithner said he saw some positive signs emerging in the private sector.

While the economy has a long way to go before reaching its full potential, last week's data on economic growth show that large parts of the private sector continue to strengthen, he said.

We have a long way to go to address the fiscal trauma and damage across the country, and we will need to monitor the ups and downs in the economy month by month, Geithner wrote.

Asked in the ABC interview about his future plans and whether he would stay for Obama's whole first term, Geithner replied: I will stay as long as he asks me to stay.

(Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Vicki Allen)