The Big Picture has picked up on what appears to be an interesting development over at the NBER’s site. It seems like they are hedging there bets on a possible double dip recession beginning in late 2010 or 2011.

As you may know, the NBER is the organization which is responsible for the monthly dating of recessions in the United States.  Back in May 2008, when Pollyannas were denying the recession, I wrote this prediction:

The NBER does not define a recession in terms of two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP. Rather, a recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales. For more information, see the latest announcement on how the NBER’s Business Cycle Dating Committee chooses turning points in the Economy and its latest memo, dated 07/17/03.


So, you’ve got to look at:

  • GDP
  • income
  • employment
  • production and
  • retail sales

…All the major signs of recession are there. It probably began in Dec. 2007 or Jan. 2008. The question is how long and how deep.

-US Recession Signals, May 2008

This turned out to be right on the money when the beginning of the recession was finally dated in December 2008. Now the question is when did – or when will  – it end.

There has been a lot of conflicting evidence in regards to this fake, stimulus-induced recovery we are now witnessing.  NBER committee member Robert Gordon of Northwestern University made statements this past Spring suggesting he sees an early recovery dating (see Jobless claims may signal the end is near from April 2009). But Martin Feldstein, another NBER dating committee member, is holding out. He said last year:

[M]y reading of the evidence does not agree with that of those who claim that … a sustained cyclical recovery is likely to begin within the next few months. … But, although