Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When is a recession not a recession?

When the NBER says so. This is the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization. We generally follow its determination of the beginning and end of business cycles.

A few days ago the NBER announced that the recession ended in June 2009.
The trough marks the end of the recession that began in December 2007 and the beginning of an expansion. The recession lasted 18 months, which makes it the longest of any recession since World War II.

In determining that a trough occurred in June 2009, the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity.
No kidding. Here's a picture.
How are you doing? According to a new poll from CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, Americans overwhelmingly disagree with the NBER's assessment. Here's that picture.
The difference is in semantics. We use the term recession to describe how we're doing right now. Economists use it to refer to the direction of the economy. Note, however, that public opinion tracks economic activity fairly accurately.

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