The economy seems to be picking up a tad—at least temporarily—but the upshot is even faster economic growth isn’t going to be enough to absorb the long-term unemployed anytime soon.

And the depressing truth is, though 2011 should be a better year for jobs generally, there seems to be little help on the horizon for the long-term unemployed. That is not necessarily due to a lack of possible solutions. The federal government could create broad retraining programs or even guaranteed work schemes, as a few European nations have. But congressional will is weak, and such programs are expensive. Though 2010 was the year joblessness was the highest, 2011 may prove to be the year that joblessness became intractable—with a large pool of unemployed, and sometimes unemployable, workers remaining just outside the otherwise sunnier labor market.

This is pretty much going to be a social disaster, one we hope the press devoted lots of resources to documenting.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.