WASHINGTON - President Obama said yesterday that the massive federal bailout program for financial insititutions has turned out to be less costly than expected and that there may be ways to redirect some of the money toward creating jobs.

Obama declined to say for certain whether he would seek to redirect some of the repaid money from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program to jobs programs. He did say he would address the topic in a speech today.

The president said the key question is determining whether the bailout money could be put toward selective job creation that meets the original intent of the law. He cited as an example directing bailout money to help small businesses get lending.

The president's comments came as Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were looking to tap as much as $70 billion in unused funds from the Wall Street bailout to pay for spending on roads and bridges and to save the jobs of firefighters, teachers and other public employees. Republican leaders are voicing strong opposition to that idea, saying all the money should go toward reducing the federal deficit.

In particular, Obama signaled that money from the $700 billion financial-rescue program could be used as part of a jobs package to help small- and medium-sized businesses get loans to invest and ultimately to hire workers.