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Economists: Too soon to say recession is over

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The panel of economists responsible for officially deciding the length of recessions said Monday that it's "premature" to say when the recent downturn ended.

The National Bureau of Economic Research said the panel met Thursday in the hopes of determining when the economy, which slipped into recession in December 2007, hit bottom.

"Although most indicators have turned up, the committee decided that the determination of the trough date ... would be premature," the group said in a brief statement.

The committee said that many economic indicators are "quite preliminary" at this time and could be revised in the months ahead. The committee bases its decisions on "actual indicators" -- not forecasts -- about economic growth, the job market and other measures.

The nation's gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, turned positive in the second half of 2009, according to the latest figures. And a government report released earlier this month showed that U.S. employers added more jobs in March than any other month in the last three years.

While those and other developments have caused many economists to tentatively place the recession's end date sometime in June or July 2009, the economists at NBER decided they needed to wait for more definitive data before making an official determination.

"This is not at all unusual," said Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute. "The committee is waiting for the dust to settle completely before making the final determination."

In past recessions, the committee has not pinpointed the end date until over a year after the economy had resumed growth.

"If anything is unusual, it's that they're talking at all," Achuthan said, adding that Monday's statement is probably a reflection of the interest that media outlets have shown in the committee's decisions.  To top of page

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