Getting people back to work has proven to be the hardest part of the Great Recession.

The U.S. has 15.3 million unemployed workers, almost double the amount when the recession began two years ago. And unemployment continues in double digits —  10 percent.

Small business has now moved front and center as the best hope for getting the job market to show some green shoots, after all the attention on the financial sector failed to lead to sustained job growth. The small-business sector, after all, still creates the most jobs in this country.

Last Week President Obama proposed a small business stimulus program that includes $5,000 in tax credits for new hires. Small businesses are split in their views. Some say the credits will prompt them to hire more. Others say they have to see evidence of an improved economy. That could be in the offing.

On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics  will release its latest reading on the job market, the most important reading on the economy. A Bloomberg survey of 50 economists predicts that January’s payrolls grew by 13,000.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

To put that number into perspective: That would mark only the second time the job market has expanded since the Great Recession began in December, 2007. Except for November, 2009, when the economy added, 4,000 jobs, the nation has had nearly two solid years of job losses so far. So great expectations will be riding on Friday’s numbers.