Auto Industry Car Sales Return to Pre-Recession Levels But Economy Still Stuck in the Mud

According to reports from America's Big 3 auto producers – Ford, GM, and Chrysler – December 2012 auto sales for the the trio reached pre-recession rates.

If you hadn't heard the good news from Detroit, you're not alone. With the continuing fiscal cliff/sequestration debates in Congress, a generation of college graduates languishing in low-skill jobs, and the long-term unemployed losing job skills, we have several challenges before we've returned to normal.

While Congress came to an agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts to all but the richest Americans, the threat of fiscal issues still loom large. As Slate's Matthew Yglesias has argued, a "lesser bargain" coming out of the protracted debate over sequestration would increase short-term growth, while prolonged uncertainty over the country's fiscal future continues to threaten economic stability, as firms dial back hiring until confidence increases.

Facing the brunt of stalled hiring are millenials and recent college graduates. The  unemployment rate for all college graduates remains considerably lower than the national rate, around 4%, but the recent college graduate unemployment/underemployed rate has reached upwards of 50% as millenials struggle to find unemployment that makes use of their education. Long-term prospects for the next generation are dampened by each new graduating class entering the stagnant job market, which creates a new set of competitors for entry-level jobs.

As recent graduates struggle to find jobs that train them for the future, the job skills of the 4.8. million Americans considered "long-term unemployed" atrophy. The long-term unemployed will continue to struggle while other sectors of the economy pick up, as they fight to retain vital job skills and explain large gaps on their resumes.