An official recession

AN OFFICIAL RECESSION…. The announcement was only a matter of time.

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.

“The committee views the payroll employment measure, which is based on a large survey of employers, as the most reliable comprehensive estimate of employment,” said the group’s statement. “This series reached a peak in December 2007 and has declined every month since then.” […]

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.

This is the eleventh recession in the post-World War II era, but it is already one of the longest. The NBER announcement shows that our current downturn has lasted a year (and counting), and only two of the modern recessions (November 1973 to March 1975 and July 1981 to November 1982) have lasted this long.

It suggests the current recession is very likely to be the longest since the Great Depression.

We knew all of this, of course, but it’s reassuring, I suppose, to get official confirmation.