There’s No US Recession Until an Obscure Panel of ‘Eggheads’ Says It Is So

Wall Street and Washington are loudly debating whether the US economy can escape a recession -- but that monumental judgment will be made by eight eminent economists meeting quietly and far from public view.

While many countries define an economic downturn as two consecutive quarters of negative growth for gross domestic product, the US defers this assessment to elite academics at the National Bureau of Economic Research, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose leaders scoff at the two-quarter benchmark as simplistic and misleading.

Recessions have huge impact on markets and US politics. So the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee of six men and two women -- led by Robert Hall, a 78-year-old Stanford University professor -- can expect harsh criticism if it declines to swiftly declare one on President Joe Biden’s watch following two straight quarters of shrinking GDP.

The ‘R’ Word | It’s getting harder and harder to avoid hearing about recession risks