Are We in a Recession? 43% of Americans Think So

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Nearly half of Americans believe we’re already in a recession, according to a new survey, and almost as many have actively started preparing for one.

What the research says

  • Research firm Morning Consult released poll results Monday showing that 46% of Americans said they think the economy is currently in a recession. Another 22% said that — while they don’t believe a recession is here already — the country will be in one within the next year.
  • The survey, which included responses from more than 2,200 U.S. adults contacted in February, also found that 41% of Americans said they’re changing their financial behaviors to prepare for a recession. An additional 41% told Morning Consult that they aren’t able to prepare for one actively but wish they could.
  • Common steps people are taking right now to gird their finances against an economic downturn include building up their emergency savings, cutting back on spending and stockpiling food or supplies.

Keep in mind

Officially speaking, the U.S. economy is not in a recession — though there are warning signs that an economic slowdown may be on the horizon.

  • What, exactly, a recession is can be hard to pin down. Though a common definition links it to two consecutive quarters of gross domestic product decline, there’s actually a group of academics at the National Bureau of Economic Research formally in charge of defining when a recession begins and ends.
  • And their definition of a recession is vague: “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months,” according to the NBER website.
  • Many Americans look to recent layoffs, in the tech sector especially, as evidence that a recession is coming or is perhaps already here — though the overall job market remains resilient.
  • While these warning signs are flashing, they do not likely qualify for NBER’s definition of widespread economic decline, as they remain contained to specific sectors.

The takeaway

While many are convinced a recession is a sure thing, some economists say all is going according to plan. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to slow the overheated economy and curb inflation.

For example, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, suggests that widespread perception of a looming recession might actually help the U.S. avoid one: “Pervasive pessimism” of a recession has led to decreased spending from consumers and businesses, he recently tweeted.

And that, Zandi said, could be key to getting inflation under control — thus sidestepping an official recession.

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