Reporter Presses Jean-Pierre On The Definition Of Recession

[Screenshot/White House press briefing]

Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins asked for the White House’s official definition of a recession during Monday’s press briefing.

Collins raised the question following the White House’s statement Thursday which argued that the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) committee’s recession-indicator has indicated “strong growth in the U.S. economy” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the White House will rely on the NBER to determine whether the country has entered a recession.

“I’m not going to define it from here, I’m just going to leave it to the NBER as we have stated and how they define recession,” Jean-Pierre said.

“You won’t declare one until they have declared one, is that what you’re saying?” Collins asked.

“I’m just saying that we’re just not going to define it, we use the indicators that the NBER, the National Bureau of Economic Research, have used,” the press secretary said.

She touted the nation’s strong labor market and job growth, an uncommon sign of a recession. She then pointed to the 3.6% unemployment rate.

“That does not define a recession, and so that’s what we point you to, that’s what we’re looking at how the economy is currently in this moment,” Jean-Pierre added. “The reason why is because of the work that this president has done. Because of the American Rescue Plan and turning back on an economy that was in crisis when he walked in.” (RELATED: White House Economic Adviser Tries To Get Out Ahead On Definition Of Recession As GDP Data Set To Be Released)

“I just want to be clear, though, so we’re not going to hear the White House say that if there is a recession, that there is one until the National Bureau of Economic Research has declared it one?” Collins said.

“What I’m saying is that the technical definition … is the National Bureau of Economic Research that looks at a broad range of data on deciding whether or not there is a recession and most of that data they look at right now continues to be strong,” Jean-Pierre said.

NBER’s definition of a recession emphasizes that it includes “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months.” The White House argued in their July 21 statement that the NBER studies the growth or decline of labor markets, consumer and business spending, incomes and industrial production to determine a recession.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is scheduled to release the second quarter GDP growth of 2022 on Thursday, which will indicate whether the nation has faced positive or negative growth. Traditionally, economists have defined recession as negative GDP growth in two consecutive quarters.

Another White House reporter challenged Jean-Pierre on President Joe Biden’s confidence that the nation will not enter a recession early on Monday. The press secretary said that the NBER evaluates a wide range of indicators surrounding consumer spending and unemployment, which are inconsistent with a recession.

“It’s not our definition, right? We’re talking about a definition from NBER which has been around since 1920,” she said. “NBER, they decide what the definition is, and so when you look at the economic indicators, you do not see the job growth, the strong labor market that we’re seeing currently in a recession.”