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Welcome to the "Wolf Creek Pass" School of Monetary Policy

I don’t know if you folks remember that hit ditty: a humorous tune about two truckers attempting to manhandle an out-of-control 1948 Peterbilt down the “other side” of Wolf Creek Pass – a death-taunting section of U.S. Highway 160 where the elevation drops a hefty 5,000 feet in a relatively short distance.

The song’s two characters – a truck driver named Earl and his brother, who’s his partner as well as the song’s narrator – are taking a flatbed load of chickens on a speedy trip down this winding, two-lane Colorado highway. After the narrator gives Earl the above-mentioned warning, the ancient semi’s brakes fail.

From there on down, the narrator tells us that the brothers’ trip “just wasn’t real pretty.” The truck careened around hairpins and switchbacks, and then raced at an uncontrolled 110 mph toward a tunnel with “clearance to the 12-foot line” – with chicken crates sadly “stacked to 13-9.”

The drivers and the runaway Peterbilt “went down and around and around and down ’til we run outta ground at the edge of town… and bashed into the side of the feed store – in downtown Pagosa Springs.”

Believe it or not, I started thinking about this funny old country tune the other night – right after I’d read a piece about QE3 and the U.S. Federal Reserve.

As zany as it first sounds, the parallels are striking.

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    What the December U.S. Jobs Report Tells Us About 2013

    The December U.S. jobs report released Friday showed the country's unemployment rate failed to improve in the last month of 2012, with the economy adding only 155,000 jobs.

    The unemployment rate, originally reported as 7.7% for November, was revised upward for that month to 7.8%, and stayed the same for December.

    The figure was roughly in line with expectations. Estimates for the number of jobs created in December ranged between 140,000 and 160,000.

    Non-farm payroll hiring in December was most robust in health care, which created 45,000 jobs. Manufacturing, construction and hospitality also logged strong gains.

    Oddly, employment dipped in retail during the holiday-sales month, which is usually the most active time for the sector.

    The government also shed jobs, dropping 13,000.

    After eliminating some 653,000 jobs from 2008 to 2011, state and local governments kept headcount mostly even in 2012. The decline in December could be attributed to the economic uncertainty hanging over Capitol Hill.

    The Pentagon has warned that workers may have to be furloughed if the debate over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, set to be taken up in a few weeks, is dragged out past next month.

    Also weighing on government hiring is the pack of problems that will challenge growth, like rising worker pension costs, steep spending cuts and reduced federal funding that will likely kick in during 2013.

    As Moody's chief economists told USA Today, "The fiscal headwinds will be blowing hard in 2013."

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  • December U.S. jobs report