It’s official: U.S. in a recession since December 2007

Monday December 1, 2:00 pm ET
By Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer

The National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday that the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007, making official what most Americans have already believed about the state of the economy.

The NBER is a private group of leading economists charged with dating the start and end of economic downturns. It typically takes a long time after the start of a recession to declare its start because of the need to look at final readings of various economic measures.

Employers have trimmed payrolls by 1.2 million jobs in the first 10 months of this year. On Friday, economists are predicting the government will report a loss of another 325,000 jobs for November.

The NBER also looks at real personal income, industrial production as well as wholesale and retail sales. All those measures reached a peak between November 2007 and June 2008, the NBER said.

In addition, the NBER also considers the gross domestic product, which is the reading most typically associated with a recession in the general public.

Many people erroneously believe that a recession is defined by two consecutive quarters of economic activity declining. That has yet to take place during this recession.

This downturn longer than most

The current recession is one of the longest downturns since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

The last two recessions (1990-1991 and 2001) lasted eight months each, and only two of the 10 previous post-Depression downturns lasted as long as a full year, according to the NBER.

In a statement, White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said that even though the recession is now official, it is more important to focus on the steps being taken to fix the economy.

“The most important things we can do for the economy right now are to return the financial and credit markets to normal, and to continue to make progress in housing, and that’s where we’ll continue to focus,” he said. “Addressing these areas will do the most right now to return the economy to growth and job creation.”

President-elect Obama’s transition team did not have an immediate comment on the recession announcement. But other top Democrats said this is further proof of the need for another economic stimulus package, which Obama has advocated.

“With rising costs of living, rising unemployment, record foreclosures and depleted savings, we must do more to help families make ends meet,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a statement. “With the cooperation of our Republican colleagues, we intend to send a plan to the White House as soon as possible following President-elect Obama’s inauguration next month.”

The NBER did not give any reasons or causes of the recession. But it is widely accepted that the housing downturn, which started in 2006, is a primary cause of the broader economic malaise.

The fall of housing prices from peak levels reached earlier this decade cut deeply into home building and home purchases. This also caused a sharp rise in mortgage foreclosures, which in turn resulted in losses of hundreds of billions of dollars among the nation’s leading banks and a tightening of credit.

The government has taken many steps to try and prevent the economy from falling into recession, but little has worked to this point.

The Federal Reserve began to cut interest rates in September 2007. In February, Congress passed a $170 billion tax rebate meant to stimulate the economy. But that only boosted GDP during the second quarter.

The financial market and credit crisis worsened during this summer, prompting Congress, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to pump trillions of dollars into the nation’s economy through a variety of programs, including a $700 billion bailout of banks and Wall Street firms and hundreds of billions of lending by the Fed to major companies and lenders.

Source Link: http://biz.yahoo.com/cnnm/081201/120108_recession.html

Of course, some of us have known this all along. Some of us listened almost a year ago when Ron Paul said he believed the U.S. was already in a recession. The other presidential candidates snickered and ridiculed him then. I wonder if anybody is laughing now.

Does this make anybody else sad or angry like it does me? I’d be feeling so much more optimistic about the nation and the economy today if Ron Paul were president-elect. Today not even “I told you so” is helping much.

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