What's next? Economist Peter Morici estimates that the economy must add more than 13 million jobs to bring the unemployment rate down to 6 percent by the end of 2013. One significant impediment: financially-strapped state and local governments that will likely continue to cut jobs, putting more pressure on the private sector to create jobs.
Shapiro expects that a peak in the unemployment rate is likely "not too far away," but cautions that because so many workers escaped the job market and abandoned their searches during the recession, there may be a long stream of workers returning to their job hunts and adding to the unemployment rate until they all find jobs.
Not all are hopeful. "The steep recession will unlikely be followed by a steep recovery, the numbers just aren't moving in that direction," William Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a statement today. The NFIB's survey of small business owners found 7 percent still planning to reduce employment over the next three months. "There is little enthusiasm among owners to hire more workers, primarily due to continued weak sales trends," Dunkelberg said.