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U.S. Exits Longest Recession Since World War II

Andrew Beatty

Protesters hold signs aloft during a rally for unemployed people in front of the New York Stock Exchange in New York September 1, 2010. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

WASHINGTON - The U.S. economy exited recession in June 2009, the National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday, making it official that the downturn was the longest in more than half a century.

More than eight million jobs were lost in the slump that was triggered by dodgy Wall Street mortgage investments.

President Barack Obama said the end of the "Great Recession" would come as little solace to the millions of people who are still out of work

"Even though economists may say that the recession officially ended last year, obviously for the millions of people who are still out of work, people who have seen their home values decline, people who are struggling to pay the bills day to day, it's still very real for them."

The NBER underscored that slow pace of recovery as it issued a statement that confirmed: "The recession lasted 18 months, which makes it the longest of any recession since World War II.

"The committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity," it noted, pointedly.

At the same time it warned "economic activity is typically below normal in the early stages of an expansion, and it sometimes remains so well into the expansion."

Earlier on Monday the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development warned that the U.S. economy would grow at a slower-than-expected rate of 1.5 per cent this year.

The Paris-based OECD said U.S. growth would be far less than the 3.2 per cent predicted in May, and would increase to only 2.3 per cent next year raising the specter of a painfully slow recovery.

"The United States is slowly recovering from a severe recession and, with economic growth projected to remain low for some time," the OECD said.

The body added that "unemployment is likely to stay elevated for a relatively long period."

"Continuation of targeted support for the labor market may also be necessary until private sector employment picks up more strongly."

But there was some good news.

Despite economists' warnings of a double-dip recession, the NBER said the economy had already recovered enough that any new slide would be an entirely new recession.

"The committee decided that any future downturn of the economy would be a new recession and not a continuation of the recession that began in December 2007."

"The basis for this decision was the length and strength of the recovery to date."

Unlike many countries where a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of shrinking growth domestic product, in the United States it is determined by a seven-member NBER panel.

Although the depth of the crisis had already been clear, the NBER confirmed it was longer than those which began in 1973 and 1981 and which both lasted 16 months.


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