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It’s trying to use judgment to impose on the data rather than going with a very simple rule in these cases. I mean, just for the Great Recession, which started in December of 2007, the Business Cycle Dating Committee didn’t figure that out until the summer 2008? It was the Monday after Thanksgiving when we announced that the U. economy had entered a recession in December of the previous year.
We got some, I wouldn’t call it fan mail, but some rather harsh commentary from the public for announcing that we were in a recession at that point. The point to make here though is that by June of 2009 we were out, so it was long, and it was deep.
Small-business confidence declined in March for a second month.
Poterba: Well, if it’s looking for a recession, then it’s looking for evidence of a significant and sustained downturn in economic activity that is broadly distributed across the economy.
It’s not looking for just a blip, it’s looking for something that’s more substantial, and it uses a number of different measures to try to gauge what’s happening. It’s not that whole two cycles of negative GDP growth, two quarters, right? And the reason we do not do that is because you could easily imagine a situation in which real GDP declines by one-tenth of a percent in one quarter, or one-tenth of a percent in another quarter, while at the same time employment is rising, real gross domestic income is rising. And what the committee, while it admittedly is a group of 10 people, and it’s looking at a number of different measures, it’s making ultimately a subjective call.
In the summer of 2009 real GDP and industrial production hit bottom and resumed growth, and expansion in both measures strengthened as the year ended.
Industrial production has continued to grow in early 2010 as, in all likelihood, has output.
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Any number of unpredictable shocks, from a big sovereign default to rapid monetary tightening in overheating emerging markets, could undermine the recovery. As of March, 15m Americans were jobless, while another 9m were unwillingly working only part-time.