So the Recession is finally official- Now What?

On Friday, November 28, 2008 the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research announced a peak in economic activity in December 2007. Since it is the NBER’s sacred and ordained task to announce recession beginings and end, finally everyone including the government can admit that we are in an official recession until the NBER announces a ‘trough’, signalling the end of the recession. Interestingly, neither the GDP or the GDI (Gross Domestic Income) showed an extremely clear pattern in the two consecutive quarters of decline rule to identify a peak, only the payroll employment seems to have declined every month since December ’07 and the NBER seems to have weighed heavily on this metric to dtermine that we reached a peak in economic activity in December ’07. Interestingly, I had posted previously in Is GDP a Consistent Measure? No, GDP is actually a Deceptive Measure… that relying purely on the GDP to determine the state of the economy is not a good idea since this measure may no longer be as reliable as it used to be in the past. Even if the financial markets and the economic production begins to stabilize, employment may continue to decline (economists are expecting Friday’s employment report to be abysmal at a 325,000 decline- ADP has reported a 250,000 decline in the private sector). What probably is also driving private sector declines is the fact that stock prices are down in the dumps and management will continue to leverage every opportunity to be efficient by cutting costs to appease shareholders, until revenue growth returns to a point where it offsets the need to improve profit margins through cost-cutting. After the 2001 recession, jobs took 4 years to return to peak levels according to the Economic Policy Institute and if that is any indicator, we are looking at late 2011 early 2012 for a full recovery. With the dramatic decline in House Prices and the bleak performance of retirement accounts, households are increasing their savings rate in “safer” securities (typically bonds), as they can no longer rely on their real estate equity as a retirement cushion. In any case we are a long way from getting out of the woods.

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