President Obama warned Thursday that some of the nearly 8 million jobs lost during the two-year recession might not return without a series of new government initiatives to jump-start private sector hiring.

"You've got essentially a 7 million to 8 million gap between where jobs should be for relatively full employment and where we are," Obama said in an interview with USA TODAY and the Detroit Free Press.

"That is my greatest fear, is we don't close that gap."