Recession, or no recession? The latest economic data, in context

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The US economy is in a recession. At least it is if you ask some economists.

Agree to disagree

The country notched its second consecutive quarter of negative GDP growth, with US output contracting at an annualized rate of 0.9% last quarter. For most economists that meets the definition of a recession, but technically in the US a recession isn't official until a group at the National Bureau of Economic Research actually say "yep, this is a recession".

Exactly what data the NBER considers beyond GDP isn't clear — it appears to be more of an art than a hard science. Soaring inflation will surely count for the "it's probably a recession" argument, while near-record-low unemployment will go in the "maybe it's not" column.

GDP going backwards is a definitive sign that things are slowing up — and another three-quarters-of-a-percent rate hike, which was announced this week by the Federal Reserve, is unlikely to help GDP growth get back into the green.

Whether it is a technical recession or not, the third option in this debate is to get philosophical and quote Bobby Kennedy — who famously said that GDP "does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials...  it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile".

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