Why is the recession over?

Date posted: October 22, 2010

Economists have been saying that the recession has been over for more than a year, but with unemployment still sky high and so many families still struggling, how can that be? N.C. Cooperative Extension economist Mike Walden explains.

“This is a question that I have been asked many, many times in the last couple of weeks, and it all has to do with how economists — and we are the ones that do this — define a recession. And we define a recession as occurring when broad measures of the economy, so average measures of the economy, are going down — meaning the economy is shrinking or getting worse.

“However, once those broad measures start to move upward — even if it is a snail’s pace — then we say the recession is over. And actually … if you look back last summer — June, specifically, of 2009 — we started to see at that point these broad measures like production factory output and even later in the fall jobs start to go up. And so there is a committee, that actually sits outside of the government, of economists who look at these numbers, and they think now that these broad measures have been going up for a long enough period of time as to say that the recession actually ended in the summer of 2009.

“But once again — once again — let me emphasize this does not mean everything is fine. It simply means on average things are not getting worse. They are getting better. The problem right now is they are getting better at a very, very slow pace.”

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