Analysts estimate that the nation needs to consistently add at least 200,000 jobs a month in order to make a real dent in unemployment. The United States lost more than 8 million jobs in the past two years, and the work force has increased by more than a million jobs a year in the meantime. On top of that, several million other workers are either underemployed or have left the work force because they became too discouraged to look for work.
Federal Reserve officials have repeatedly said that the pace of economic growth is still too low to generate substantial declines in unemployment.
"With output growth likely to be moderate for awhile and with employers reportedly still reluctant to add to their payrolls, it will be several years before the unemployment rate has returned to a more normal level,'' Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told reporters on Thursday in a speech at the National Press Club.
This post was updated at 9:14 a.m.