So, are we in a recession or not?

A businesswoman walks past an H&M clothing store in Chicago

SCOTT JAGOW: Rrrrr... Rrrr... I'm afraid to say the word. But there's a group of purchasing managers based in Chicago that puts out a business barometer. This barometer has predicted a recession four of the last five times we've had one. Today, the group said we might be in one right now. Marketplace's Bob Moon tells us more.


BOB MOON: What caught our attention today was a note of commentary within the so-called "business barometer" put out by the National Association of Purchasing Management in Chicago. Pointing to a slight dip in the reading, the note suggested — quoting here — "the U.S. economy could be in a recession at this time."

Really?

Not too many prominent experts feel that way. In fact, Wachovia's chief economist John Silvia says many of the indicators out just today point to a contrary conclusion:

JOHN SILVIA:"Personal income is growing around 7 percent. Consumer spending up around 5 percent. You're looking at factory orders, shipments, all growing at 8 to 10 percent growth. I mean, that's not the scenario where you have recession."

Silvia says he's not ruling out a recession, but wouldn't put the odds at any more than 1-in-20 in the coming six months.

But there are those who are much less optimistic. Nouriel Roubini is a Turkish-born professor of economics at New York University. He argues that the booming housing market has been the main engine of the country's economic growth over the past several years. And, unlike the bursting of the tech bubble that led to the last, relatively-tame recession, he says a housing downturn will have a much broader and deeper impact:

NOURIEL ROUBINI:"This housing bust is going to have much more severe effects than the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000-2001, so the recession is going to be more severe."

Roubini expects those effects will be felt by sometime next year, in less consumer spending and more lost jobs. And he predicts the recession will last much longer this time around.

In Los Angeles, I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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