Are we in a recession?

Recession street sign

Steve Chiotakis: I don't think anyone will dispute the fact that our economy is out of sorts -- it's certainly off its A-game. But whether or not we're in a recession may be just a technicality at this point.

Fortune magazine's Allan Sloan is with us now
with his take on it. Good morning Allan.

Allan Sloan: Good morning, Steve.

Chiotakis: The economy's already in the tank. I mean, why does anyone care if we're in a recession?

Sloan: Well, I don't know if people care, but the one thing I can tell you is, it's going to take a long time to find out if in fact we're in a recession now, we won't know for probably at least a year, maybe longer.

Chiotakis: What's the official definition of a recession?

Sloan: It's whatever something called The Business Cycle Dating Committee says is a recession.

Chiotakis: That's not what it sounds like, I'm sure.

Sloan: No, it is not an Internet pick-up operation. It's a bunch of very serious and pretty nice and smart economists working at something called the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Chiotakis: Who is so obsessed about these definitions? Does it really matter? People are hurting; the jobs aren't being created as fast as they should. The economy is not doing very well.

Sloan: I think that's clear, but if you're looking for someone to blame, I think you and I could probably look in the mirror, and a whole lot of our colleagues, because you've got to have something to talk about. So we talk about, 'Are we in a recession? Are we not in a recession?' And A) We're not going to find out for a long time, and B) What good does it -- unless you're a politician -- what difference does it make? You already know the situation.

Chiotakis: You know Allan, we may not technically be in a recession, but will we be sometime soon?

Sloan: Who knows. Maybe we're in a recession now, maybe we aren't. You'll be glad to know that the end of the last recession, which the committee decided ended in June 2009 -- they announced that in September 2010, which was 15 months later. So ask me in 13 months whether we're in a recession now, and I'll have an answer for you.

Chiotakis: We'll have to go to the dating committee.

Sloan: Hey, hey, I'm a married man, you be careful.

Chiotakis: Fortune magazine's Allan Sloan. Allan, thanks.

Sloan: You're welcome, Steve.

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