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US Officially in Recession, Economic Panel Declares

FILE - Information signs are posted at the Illinois Department of Employment Security, June 5, 2020, in Chicago. The federal unemployment rate declined to 13.3 percent in May from 14.7 percent in April with a gain of 2.5 million jobs.

The U.S. economy is in a recession, an economic research group declared Monday, marking the end of the longest economic expansion in history.

A committee with the National Bureau of Economic Research, which makes such determinations, said the recession began in February.

The NBER’s broad definition of a recession is “a decline in economic activity that lasts more than a few months.”

“In deciding whether to identify a recession, the committee weighs the depth of the contraction, its duration, and whether economic activity declined broadly across the economy. The committee recognizes that the pandemic and the public health response have resulted in a downturn with different characteristic,” an NBER statement said.

The organization said the U.S. gross domestic product fell at a 4.8% annual rate in the first three months of the year, and unemployment skyrocketed from 3.5% in February to 14.7% in April, dropping to 13.3% last month.

Some economists predict the current recession will be a short one, as economic production picks up and jobs start coming back.

But their optimism is tempered by a possible recurrence of the coronavirus. If that happens, they say, it could take more than two years for the U.S. economy to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.

The news out of the World Bank on Monday was grim. It predicted the global economy would shrink 5.2% this year, which would be the deepest recession since the end of World War Two.

The World Bank said the pandemic and economic crisis could send millions of people around the world into extreme poverty.