The single greatest item to the US economic recovery has to do with consumers and their single largest debt item--homes.
The housing market must recover in order for any sizeable and sustainable recovery to happen. For 4+ years now the housing market has been in tough. People looking to sell can't because nobody will buy. Those who want to move to find jobs can't accept because they can't sell their home or the mortgage is worth far more than the home.... They're stuck putting consumers in an even deeper cyclical problem. Others would like to move up but can't because their current property won't sell to anyone. Basically a holding pattern exists in the market.
New starts are in the same boat. New home builds were in fact up in October, so that's a strong sign that builders think that things are, albeit really tiny, slowly picking up. But then with new housing start numbers slightly up, new housing SALES were in fact down in October 2012. So you have more houses on the market but even fewer people buying them.
Long story short the American economy still needs help. Primary driving force behind that will be job creation. More folks with more money will then help push the housing market (so long as the banks also do their part and lend at these historic interest rate lows).
When will this happen? Well no time soon and certainly not quickly. We're in it for a long time, perhaps a decade, in fact, certainly a decade (if you start counting fro m2008).
-- With notes from Calgary real-estate law firm TC.