Since CNBC launched in 1989, the U.S. has added a net 29.5 million jobs. Before the 2008 financial crisis, the number would have stood at 31.8 million. It was 20 million at the nadir of the Great Recession. It is a moving target. But that is part of the point, because the U.S. economy is creating and destroying jobs all the time. What matters is the pace of net job generation. That is where the drivers of America's economic dynamism—innovation, entrepreneurship, new-business formation, risk-taking and labor mobility—come together.
Even though U.S. job creation accelerated to a healthy 288,000 new jobs in April—and unemployment declined to its lowest level since Sept. 2008 at 6.3 percent—payroll job regeneration has been stubbornly slow, and what growth exists is polarized into high- and low-skill positions, leaving many American workers stranded in between.
Many of those who made CNBC's list of the 25 most transformative leaders, icons and rebels of the past quarter-century contributed significantly to net job generation. Jeff Bezos' Amazon, Larry Page and Sergey Brin's Google, and Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook are just three companies employing tens of thousands of people in jobs that didn't exist in 1989 because those companies didn't exist.