It'll be another three years before employment returns to pre-recession levels, a top Republican senator predicted Monday.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee, said that it'd be beyond 2012 before the economy and employment will have fully recovered.

"It'll probably take about that long to get unemployment down to full employment of about 4.5 percent," Grassley told WHO Radio host Jan Mickelson.

Grassley said he saw "slow growth" ahead for the next three years, suggesting that the economy might not be on track for recovery for much longer than voters would prefer.

The poorly performing economy is arguably the most dominant issue in the 2010 elections, and a slow recovery over the next few years could saddle President Obama — and congressional incumbents — going into the 2012 cycle.

Grassley, like many other Republicans, blamed uncertainty over Congress for some of the economy's slow growth in recent months. The unemployment rate stood at 9.6 percent at the end of September, a figure that was unchanged from August.

"Let's put it this way: Why aren't people being hired today?" Grassley asked. "Because [businesses] don't know what Congress is going to do to them."