RECESSION WATCH….Employers slashed 51,000 jobs in July and the headline unemployment rate is up to 5.7%. Brad DeLong thinks this is finally enough data to confirm that we’re in a recession:
The U-6 measure of unemployment — reported unemployed plus part-time for economic reasons plus marginally-attached workers all divided by the labor force plus marginally-attached workers — has risen by 1.1 percentage points in the past three months to its current level of 10.3 percent. It now stands 2.2 percentage points above its mid-2000s low, and is just a hair below the maximum reached in the 2001-2003 episode. As you all know, I have been unhappy with the conventional unemployment rate this decade — it has not been telling the same story as the other labor market indicators. U-6 seems to be a better fit to the overall state of the economy.
And by my book, U-6 is now telling us that we are in a recession.
But I am not on the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee. There’s no reason for them not to wait a couple more months before deciding thumbs-up or thumbs-down. And they may not, by their definition, call it a recession.
On the other hand, when I write my history — Macroeconomic Policy in the Age of Central Bankers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2025) — this will count as a recession starting in the last quarter of 2007.