The recession may technically be over, but Americans aren't so sure

By Robert Sofia

Platinum Advisor Strategies

The recession is over and it ended 15 months ago. Surprised? According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, an independent group of economists, it's true. In a statement released on Monday, September 20th, the bureau announced that the recession technically ended back in June 2009. As many economists had expected, this official end date makes the most recent downturn the longest and deepest for the U.S. economy since the Great Depression.

So does this mean that everything is back to normal? I think most of us know better than that. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 74% of Americans believe the economy is still in a recession. Even the bureau took care to mention that the end of the recession, by definition, is only the period until the economy reaches its low point - not necessarily a return to its previous vitality. They said, "In determining that a trough occurred in June 2009, the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month."

So if the recovery began back in June 2009, why do most Americans think we're still in a recession? Because to many of them, it feels like it. Often, when referencing events that occur in the economy, the words "official" or "technical" are used. Incidentally, you can find both those words in the first paragraph of this commentary. But as we all know, just because something is "technically" true doesn't mean it's practically true. Commenting on this, President Barack Obama said last week, "Obviously, for the millions of people who are still out of work, people who have seen their home values decline, people who are struggling to pay the bills day to day, [the recession is] still very real for them." Whether or not you agree with Mr. Obama's policies, it is easy to see that this statement has some merit. And as long as Americans feel that we are in a recession, the pace of the recovery will be challenged by lower spending, slower hiring, and the like.

On the bright side, the same CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that the percentage of Americans who say the country is in a recession has dropped 13 points since August - a significant spike in sentiment. The stock market is also looking good for the moment, as Friday closed out the week with a surge that put the Dow Jones Industrial Average on track for its best September in 71 years. Even if the recovery isn't moving as fast as everyone would like, "slow and steady" seems to be its mantra.