If we wanted to target the persistent slack in the labor market, though I can't see any signs that we do, we shouldn't just target the unemployment rate; we should also go after the underemployment rate.
The idea that by serving time one has paid his debt to society is ingrained in our social narrative, but it is not accurate. Once caught up in the tides of the criminal justice system, it is very difficult to escape.
The "fiscal cliff" might have been averted in the waning hours before the New Year, but now the "fiscal rift" in Washington over how to achieve further deficit reduction could mean far more harmful consequences for low-income individuals and those who are chronically unemployed.
Even with the looming fiscal cliff and the effects of Hurricane Sandy, the November jobs report contained some encouraging news: the number of jobs created was well above expectations at 146,000. November proved to be a mixed bag of good news and bad news.
In some ways, the tragic events in the Northeast from Hurricane Sandy and discussions around the upcoming fiscal cliff are likely to overshadow this lackluster jobs report as it generally just showed things are improving, albeit slowly.