As widely reported yesterday, the National Bureau of Economic Research has declared that the “Great Recession” is over and has been since June 2009. Phew!  What a relief … I was just beginning to become concerned that that this economic crisis was really serious.

But before taking too much comfort in this exciting news, I think I’d like to first meet the neighbors of the National Bureau of Economic Research.  You see, on further review of yesterday’s declaration, I was reminded that in classical economic terms the conclusion of a recession is generally marked by the end of a period of negative GDP which in turn is typically also associated with declines in real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale and retail sales. 

However, where I grew up in Central NY in the mid-70s – when factories that employed thousands of local workers were being continually shuttered - the definition of a recession was more simple:  it’s a recession when your neighbor looses his or her job and a depression when you lose yours.  I suspect that the more pedestrian definition of a recession – the one that I’m familiar in my life experience - is the one best understood by most Americans today – at least those that live next door to one of the nearly 15 million unemployed.

Undoubtedly as we wake today, we will be buffeted by reports of this news and the inevitable political posturing by both parties that will ensue - either to take credit for this development or to revile the other for the inconsequence of this finding.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though, if just once – common sense ruled the day - and we woke instead to an intelligent, non-partisan discussion on how to address the profound – and disruptive - structural changes underway in our economy – the same structural changes that likely will cause the current unemployment rate to rise above 10% and remain at historically high levels possibly for years to come.  Perhaps then the confidence so sorely lacking in the minds of most Americans regarding the current direction of America would begin to be restored. 

But if that doesn’t happen, perhaps the unemployed in America can all just relocate to the neighborhoods where the good men and women of the National Bureau of Economic Research live – based on yesterday’s news, there must be jobs there.