Are we in a recession?

Marketplace Staff Oct 10, 2011

Are we in a recession?

Marketplace Staff Oct 10, 2011

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.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.