(CBS News) This economic recovery has been stingy with jobs and the December report released Friday is no different.
The unemployment rate was stuck at 7.8 percent last month, even though the economy created 155,000 new jobs.
That rate of job creation has been fairly steady in recent months. The problem is that many jobs only cover the growth in the U.S. population and doesn't affect the 12 million Americans out of work.
There are, however, hidden bright spots in Friday's report.
The U.S. economy shook off concerns about the fiscal cliff, tax hikes and spending cuts as employers continued to hire in December, the strongest job growth coming in construction and manufacturing.
And some employers, like Neil Gloger, are surprisingly optimistic.
"I think business is going to be exceptionally strong this year for many reasons," Gloger said.
Gloger runs Intergroup International, a company that recycles and then resells industrial scrap plastic. He says companies like his have been running lean for a long time.
"At a certain point I believe a dam is going to burst and we're simply going to have to add workers and increase production just to keep up with demand," Gloger.
Gloger, who has 65 employees in Intergroup's three facilities around Cleveland, expects to hire another 25 workers this year.
But for the past two years, the nation's economy has been stuck in a rut, creating an average of 153,000 jobs a month in both 2011 and 2012.
"I think we're going to continue to grow probably around two-and-a-half percent. It's a very lackluster kind of number but it's not the recession we could have had," Gloger said.
John Ryding, chief economist with RDQ Economics, said it could be at least two or three years until the unemployment rate dips to pre-recession numbers.
"If you look at the kind of job creation we're likely to get, it's going to chip away at the unemployment rate," Ryder said. "We're going to be several years before we get the unemployment rate back down to 6 percent unless we have a really significant pick-up in job growth."
In fact if job growth continues at it's current pace, the unemployment rate would not drop below 6 percent until well after 2020.
Last month was the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Great Recession. About 8.7 million people lost their jobs in that time. In the last three years, the U.S. has created 4.7 million jobs - so the economy is just halfway back on the job front.