London Times on Lack of Recession

The London Times weighs in, feeling “a bit cheated” that the predictions of desperate recession have not been realized:

Well, it’s early days, to be fair, but so far the Great Depression 2008 is shaping up to be a Great Disappointment. Not so much The Grapes of Wrath as Raisins of Mild Inconvenience. Last week the Commerce Department reported that the US economy – battered by the credit crunch, pummelled by a housing market collapse and generally devastated by the wild stampede of animal spirits – actually grew in the first three months of the year.

The rate of expansion – 0.6 per cent – was weak for sure, and it followed a previous quarter of identically weak growth at the end of 2007, but as Depressions go it was singularly unGreat. In the 1930s, you’ll recall, GDP fell by more than 25 per cent. Even the periodic mild recessions we’ve had in the past 20 years at least resulted in some declines in economic activity.

Lest you object – perhaps fairly – that the GDP data are way too backward-looking to be of any use, last week we also got the news that the labour market, the canary in the coalmine of economic data, is actually improving. The US economy lost 20,000 jobs in April, while the unemployment rate ticked down a little to 5 per cent. You don’t have to compare this performance to the Great Depression to think it looks, as downturns go, really quite uplifting. It is, in fact, the gentlest start to a period of labour market weakness since the 1960s.

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