U.S. employers have added about 1.84 million jobs in each of the past two years, or about 153,000 a month. While steady, that level of hiring has barely repaired the damage left by the Great Recession.
In the past three years the economy has created only 4.7 million jobs — little more than half the 8.7 million jobs lost in 2008 and 2009.
If job gains continue at the same pace as the past two years, it would take until early 2015 for the U.S. to regain all the jobs it lost since December 2007, when the recession began.
Some economists forecast that hiring may improve slightly this year. Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, projects that the economy could gain 2 million positions in 2013.
Here are the total job gains or losses in each of the past 12 years, along with the average monthly changes:
Last year's monthly gain of 153,000 was the same as in 2011. Underneath that stability, however, were some significant swings: