In the beginning there was chaos.
And the economy was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the market. And the Spirit of Economists moved upon the face of the waters.
And the Economists said, “Let there be a Committee that marks the beginnings and ends of recessions.”
The year was 1978. And a think tank called the National Bureau of Economic Research created the Business Cycle Dating Committee.
And the Committee named peaks: January 1980; July 1981; July 1990; March 2001. And the Committee saw that they were good. And the Committee named troughs: July 1980; November 1982; March 1991; November 2001. And the Committee saw that they were bad.
And the economy rolled on, upward and downward and sideways. And then the Great Recession arrived. And the Committee, inactive since 2003, was called again to action.
On the day of the announcement, Dec. 1, 2008, three days after the seven men of the Business Cycle Dating Committee met telephonically, news venues reported the tidings.
“Most Americans sorely knew it already, but now it’s official: The country is in a recession, and it’s getting worse,” wired the Associated Press. “Wall Street convulsed at the news. …”
“The dollar gained against the euro and the British pound Monday after a slew of dismal economic reports and official word that the U.S. economy has been in a recession since December 2007,” reported CNNMoney.
The House-Senate Joint Economic Committee issued a release, complete with a statement from its chairman, Chuck Schumer: “It isn’t news to American families that for the last several months our economy has been in a recession, but Washington needs to act quickly to make sure this recession doesn’t get deeper or last a day longer than it has to.”
The Dow fell nearly 700 points.
ON TUESDAY, SEPT. 15, 2009, one year to the day after Lehman’s undoing, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who himself once sat on the cycle-dating committee, said in a speech that the recession was likely over, from an academic standpoint at least.
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