Forecast says double-dip recession is imminent

@CNNMoney September 30, 2011: 12:26 PM ET
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The U.S. economy is staring down another recession, according to a forecast from the Economic Cycle Research Institute.

"It's either just begun, or it's right in front of us," said Lakshman Achuthan, the managing director of ECRI. "But at this point that's a detail. The critical news is there's no turning back. We are going to have a new recession."

The ECRI produces widely-followed leading indicators which predict when the economy is moving between recession and expansion. Achuthan said all those indicators are now pointing to a new economic downturn in the immediate future.

His recession call puts him ahead of most other forecasters. A CNNMoney survey of economists this week pointed to a one-in-three chance of a new recession in the next six months. The most bearish predictions put the odds at 50-50.

Achuthan said it is still possible that the recession will be mild this time, lasting less than a year with relatively limited job losses. But he said if there are shocks to the system, such as another financial meltdown due to the European sovereign debt crisis, it could become a very serious and deep recession.

His call comes the day after the government's final report on second quarter gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic health, showed weak growth of only 1.3% in the three months ending in June. Achuthan said he's confident that the recession either began in the third quarter, which ends today, or will begin in the fourth quarter.

The average American is already more bearish than most economists. A CNN/ORC International poll shows 90% of those polled believe current economic conditions are poor.

The last recession, which caused the U.S. economy to shrink by more than 5%, lasted from December 2007 through June 2009, and was the nation's longest and deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

The recovery that followed has been relatively weak, and if Achuthan's forecast is correct, short. Only once in the last 50 years has a period of expansion lasted less than three years.

That poses a threat to the economy, since it makes it less likely the labor market will be able to recover the jobs lost during a recession before falling into a new period of job losses.

"The reason some people feel like the previous recession never ended is no mystery; the jobs that were lost have not been recovered," he said. "But we've added more than 1 million jobs in the last year, which only happens if we're in a recovery. If you think this is a bad economy, you haven't seen anything yet."

The official word on when recessions begin or end comes from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which has a committee that weighs economic data. But since the committee must wait for final revisions of the data, a call on the start or end of a downturn typically comes a year or more after it actually takes place. To top of page

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