After falling rather sharply in 2008 and early 2009, American GDP grew at a good pace in the fourth quarter of 2009, but has slowed down during the second quarter of 2010. Unemployment declined to 9.5% from its peak in November 2009 of 10.2%, but has been stuck around its current level for several months. This has led to growing fears of a double dip recession, and to a call for still greater fiscal stimulus. I do not believe that either of these is correct, and that the federal government should be concentrating on providing a good economic environment to encourage businesses and entrepreneurs to invest, hire, improve productivity, and raise longer-term economic growth of the US.
More than 60 years ago, Arthur Burns- former head of the NBER and Chairman of the Fed- and Wesley Mitchell-founder of the NBER- together wrote a classic study of business cycles called “Measuring Business Cycles”. They divided business cycles into several stages, such as the economic peak, economic decline, trough, early recovery, late recovery, and then a peak again. They clearly show that business cycles are of uneven length, depth, and severity, and that recoveries do not always proceed smoothly. A recession ends after the trough is passed, but they recognized that during recoveries an economy takes a while before it reaches and then surpasses its earlier peak. So from this perspective, the troubles the American economy is experiencing are not unprecedented, or even unusual.
(photo credit: Nicholas)