Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And so the recession ended 15 months ago...

The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research announced yesterday that the recession officially ended in June 2009. Can we say anything interesting or useful about that? Not much.

First, what does the announcement mean? Just the the economy bottomed out in June 2009, not that we have had a strong recovery or are even close to where we were before the recession began (December 2007). Total output (Gross Domestic Product) and employment both remain well below the levels they had reache dby the end of 2007. And the unemployment rate remains stubbonrly high.

Second, was this a surprise? Not really. Almost everyone I know, or whose work I know and read, had concluded some time ago that June 2009 was the likely date of the trough of the recession. So in a real sense, this isn't really "news."

Third, what does it tell us about the next 6 to 12 months? Next to nothing. The NBER gave us a little history yesterday, not a forecast.

So everyone should calm down, and take a deep breath. The NBER's announcement is something we could have expected, it does not tell us all is well, and it makes no statement about what to expect.


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