EAST LANSING, MI (Associated Press) - A key figure in the government's efforts to help the auto and manufacturing industries said Monday that General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC are moving in the right direction but remain works in progress.

Ron Bloom, President Barack Obama's senior counselor for manufacturing policy, said he is hopeful that there will be a public offering of GM stock in the fourth quarter of this year. But he also said the companies have challenges in their fight for long-term viability.

"We have to remember a year ago how deep the hole was," Bloom said during a meeting with reporters at Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow's office in East Lansing.

Later, during a speech at a Michigan Manufacturers Association event in Lansing, Bloom said the companies "have been given the unique opportunity to start over and they're seizing it with both hands."

Michigan has been losing auto and manufacturing jobs for years and has had the nation's highest unemployment rate for the last four, topping 14% this year.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Monday that the assistance from the federal government was a "lifeline" to the auto industry.

The industry was one of the biggest casualties of a recession fueled by risky lending and speculative trading practices of major financial institutions. But there are signs of improvement.

GM said last month that it will repay $8.1 billion in U.S. and Canadian government loans five years ahead of schedule. Chrysler had an operating profit of $143 million in the first quarter even though it had an overall net loss of $197 million.