Has the US Recovery Begun?

Although the Obama administration's stimulus package of tax cuts and increased spending will give a temporary boost to GDP growth, a sustained upturn is unlikely until next year at the earliest. And that assumes that the administration strengthens its policies in the coming months to increase demand, fix the banking system, and stop the decline in house prices.

CAMBRIDGE – Although the American economy is continuing to decline, it is no longer falling as fast as it was at the beginning of the year or in the weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. In that sense, it is reasonable to say that the worst of the downturn is now probably behind us.

But my reading of the evidence does not agree with that of those who claim that the economy is actually improving, and that a sustained cyclical recovery is likely to begin within the next few months. Although the stimulus package of tax cuts and increased government outlays enacted earlier this year will give a temporary boost to growth, we are unlikely to see the start of a sustained upturn until next year at the earliest.

The optimists back their claims of an earlier recovery by pointing to a variety of statistics. They note that construction activity is rising, home prices are declining more slowly, disposable personal income increased in the first quarter, consumer spending is up, and the labor market is improving.

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