There used to be a time when there was an actual lottery for the 65,000 H1-B slots. A few years ago, USCIS would get 120,000 application on the second day of accepting applications (April 2nd) and then shut down accepting any more applications. A lottery would ensue — giving one a rough 2 to 1 chance to even get _accepted_.
For fiscal year 2011, when applications were accepted on April 1, 2010 to begin work on Oct. 1, 2010 — the cap was not reached until January of 2011.
This year, as of May 15, 2011, only 10,000+ applications have been received.
I would imagine that an increase in H1-B numbers, if it happens, will be a good indicator of a true economic recovery in the US.