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An unidentified man, who lost his job two months ago, works a Miami street corner to collect money for his family last week. - AP

Economic panel says recession ended in '09

WASHINGTON — The longest recession the country has endured since the Great Depression ended in June 2009, a group that dates the beginning and end of recessions declared Monday.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, a panel of academic economists based in Cambridge, Mass., said the recession lasted 18 months. It started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Previously the longest post World War II downturns were those in 1973-1975 and in 1981-1982. Both of those lasted 16 months.

The NBER decision makes official what many economists have believed for some time, that the recession ended in the summer of 2009. But it won't make much difference to most Americans — especially the nearly 15 million without jobs.

Americans are coping with 9.6 percent unemployment, scant wage gains, weak home values and the worst foreclosure market in decades.

President Barack Obama saw little reason to celebrate the group's finding that the recession had ended.

Appearing at a town-hall meeting sponsored by CNBC, Obama said times are still very hard for people "who are struggling," including those who are out of work and many others who are having difficulty paying their bills.

"The hole was so deep that a lot of people out there are still hurting," the president said. It's going "to take more time to solve" an economic problem that was years in the making, he added.

The economy started growing again in the July-to-September quarter of 2009, after a record four straight quarters of declines. Thus, the April-to-June quarter of 2009, marked the last quarter when the economy was shrinking. At that time, it contracted just 0.7 percent, after suffering through much deeper declines. That factored into the NBER's decision to pinpoint the end of the recession in June.

Any future downturn in the economy would now mark the start of a new recession, not the continuation of the December 2007 recession, NBER said. That's important because if the economy starts shrinking again, it could mark the onset of a "double-dip" recession. For many economists, the last time that happened was in 1981-82.

To make its determination, the NBER looks at figures that make up the nation's gross domestic product, which measures the total value of goods and services produced within the United States. It also reviews incomes, employment and industrial activity.

The economy lost 7.3 million jobs in the 2007-2009 recession, also the most in the post World War II period.

The Great Depression lasted much longer. The United States suffered through a 43-month recession that ended in 1933. Then, it slid back into recession, which lasted for 13 months. That ended in 1938.

Unemployment usually keeps rising well after a recession ends. Four months after the 2007 downturn ended, unemployment spiked to 10.1 percent in October 2009. After the 2001 recession, unemployment didn't peak until June 2003 — 19 months later.

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