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When does a recession begin – and is the US in one now? | US economy

Is the US in a recession? It’s a question weighing on consumers, politicians and investors around the world. Today we got one step closer to answering it. And the answer is: maybe?

How do we define recession

For many, the unofficial rule of thumb is that a recession has started after two consecutive quarters of economic contraction measured by a fall in gross domestic product (GDP) – a broad measure of the price of goods and services. In the first three months of the year GDP contracted at an annual rate of 1.6%.

Today the commerce department announced that GDP shrank again by an annual rate of 0.9% in the second quarter.

So that’s it?

Not so fast. Officially, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) – a non-profit group of economists – defines when the US is in a recession.

The NBER looks at GDP but also at employment figures, personal income, industrial production and other factors. It defines a recession as “a…

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