Until 2000, the US economy was a job creating juggernaut. Those days, however, vanished, well before the total meltdown, after the Lehmann bankruptcy on September 15, 2008, so the creation of 1.64 million new jobs in 2011 is a most welcome development and meant that 2011 was the best year for job creation in the last 5 years. The number of jobs created nationally jumped about 66% from 2010, when 940,000 jobs were created.
Manufacturing and mining jobs (includes oil and gas drilling) were among the top job performing categories in 2011. Factory jobs increased by 225,000 or the most since 1997, and one has to go back to 1981 to find a year when more jobs in the BLS mining category were created than during 2011, according to Bloomberg News and BLS data. See http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/01/11/bloomberg_articlesLXN5EY1A74E9.DTL. Bloomberg notes that car sales increased to 12.8 million vehicles during 2011, spurring job gains in the vital auto industry.
While the job picture brightened in 2011, the damage done and the depth of the hole created by the job loss from November 2007 to June 2009 is enormous. A total of 8.75 million jobs were lost in that period of which about 2.5 million have now been regained.