US in recession since December 2007: official panel

WASHINGTON, December 2, 2008 (AFP) – A US recession began in December 2007, a panel of economists charged with the official designation of business cycles said Monday. But the gross domestic product (GDP) data may have been skewed by tax rebates that stimulated consumer spending, according to analysts.

The NBER said “we do not identify economic activity solely with real GDP, but use a range of indicators” in determining the onset of recession. It said over the past year there have been unusually wide discrepancies between income and output.

A major factor in determining recession is employment, which has been declining since last December, the panel said. Other factors include monthly data on income, manufacturing and retail sales.

The NBER makes no forecast on how long a recession will last, but said that in the past they have run from six to 18 months. The panel said it has no definition of the term “depression.”

The White House acknowledged the NBER conclusion and said it has been working to foster recovery.

“NBER determines the start and end dates of business cycles, and they’ve done that,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.