The National Bureau of Economic Researach has declared the beginning of the current recession to be December of 2007. So for all you commenters and bloggers who insisted we were in one while I said otherwise, congratulations. According to the closest thing we have to an authority, you were right (Wall Street Journal):
In a statement, the National Bureau of Economic Research said its Business Cycle Dating Committee determined that the U.S. entered recession in December 2007, marking the end of the economic expansion that began in November 2001. That month marked the end of the last recession for the U.S. economy.
. . .
The committee uses gross domestic product reports and gross domestic income estimates as a guide. Domestic production and employment are the primary conceptual measures of economic activity, according to the statement.
If you look at the actual NBER report, however, things get a little fuzzier. The only indicator that has shown a consistent drop since last December was the payroll survey numbers (not to be confused with the unemployment rate survey, which they also used). The rest of the data has “peaks” in activity anywhere between last November and this past June.
The Gross Domestic Product and Gross Domestic Income numbers – the big ones for economic production, “do not speak clearly about the date of a peak in activity.” That’s a fancy way of saying, “we don’t know.”
That said, The NBER report does list the indices used, providing a good rule of thumb for the rest of us, although the ending statement – “there is no fixed rule about which other measures may contribute information to the process in any particular episode” – is not very helpful, and frankly just gives the group that Wizard-of-Oz feel that is not only unnecessary in the 21st century, but is borderline offensive.
Anyhow, one word of caution for the lefty bloggers hoping and praying for a major realignment: with this data, it is now clear that the 2008 election was being held in the midst of a year-long recession, a difficult prospect for any incumbent party (the last ones to pull it off were the Republicans of 1908).
Now, the voters in 1932 weren’t looking for a dramatic increase in government either, but Franklin Roosevelt convinced them of its wisdom; Obama could do the same. My point is, he hasn’t done it yet, that’s all.