Apple Inc's chief executive Steve Jobs remains deeply involved in company decisions despite relinquishing control over daily operations, company executives said on Wednesday.

Facing a prolonged recession and drought in consumer spending, Apple has been unable to shake questions regarding the future of its charismatic CEO, who has been on medical leave and out of public view for more than a month.

Jobs, who co-founded Apple and is credited with transforming it into a consumer juggernaut after returning as CEO a decade ago, announced in January he would take a five-month leave of absence, handing over the reins of the firm and saying his health problems were more complex than originally thought.

Nothing has changed since that announcement, co-lead director Arthur Levinson said in response to shareholders' questions at the firm's headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Shareholders at Wednesday's annual meeting joined in a Happy Birthday chorus for Jobs, who turned 54 on Tuesday. Jobs was absent from the meeting.

In 2004, Jobs was treated for a rare type of pancreatic cancer. He appeared gaunt at an Apple event in June 2008, touching off speculation that his cancer had returned. The company has not managed to completely quash that speculation.

The global economic slowdown has crushed consumer spending, and Apple's array of pricey Macintosh computers, iPhones and iPods are starting to feel the pinch. Analysts say the company needs to launch a new blockbuster product this year to help galvanize growth.