Recession Over? Not So Fast, Says The Organization That Tracks Downturns

Forget Dow 11k, the recession may not be over -- at least, not technically.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, the non-profit organization that tracks business cycles, said today that it's too early to officially declare the recession over. A recession, according to the NBER, occurs when its Business Cycle Dating Committee observes a "significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales."

It's worth noting that the NBER is often tardy in its announcements. Though the downturn began in December of 2007, the NBER didn't declare it until almost a year later.

The New York Times spoke to a few of the committee's seven active members, and their words are nothing if not cryptic. Robert E. Hall of Stanford, opined that the "odds favor" that the recession is over. Jeffrey A. Frankel, of Harvard, who had previously declared the recession over, the NYT notes, now says, "Hypothetically, if there were a new sharp downturn that came along tomorrow, would it count as a new recession or part of the same recession?"

Here is the NBER's full statement:

CAMBRIDGE, April 8 -- The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research met at the organization's headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on April 8, 2010. The committee reviewed the most recent data for all indicators relevant to the determination of a possible date of the trough in economic activity marking the end of the recession that began in December 2007. The trough date would identify the end of contraction and the beginning of expansion. Although most indicators have turned up, the committee decided that the determination of the trough date on the basis of current data would be premature. Many indicators are quite preliminary at this time and will be revised in coming months. The committee acts only on the basis of actual indicators and does not rely on forecasts in making its determination of the dates of peaks and troughs in economic activity. The committee did review data relating to the date of the peak, previously determined to have occurred in December 2007, marking the onset of the recent recession. The committee reaffirmed that peak date.