President Biden and his aides on Monday stepped up a campaign to try to convince American voters that the country has not slipped into recession, ahead of the release this week of new data that could show the economy is continuing to shrink.
“God willing, I don’t think we’re going to see a recession,” Biden said after a virtual meeting with high-tech manufacturing executives and union leaders. The event aimed to promote a China competitiveness bill that the Senate could pass this week.
Recession fears have prompted many of Biden’s aides to brief reporters on the overall health of the economy, including the administration’s view that a buoyant job market is among the many signs that the economy has not plunged into recession.
The technical details of what constitutes a recession have given the White House and Republicans some very geeky talking points before gross domestic product data is released on Thursday. Growth in the first quarter was a negative 1.6%, and the new data should show that the US economy grew little or perhaps shrank again in the second quarter.
Republican lawmakers have increasingly accused the president of redefining commonly understood terms to try to make the economy look healthier than it is.
“News for Joe Biden,” the Republican National Committee said in a press release on Monday. “You cannot change reality by arguing over definitions.”
Government officials have repeatedly rejected this claim, taking pains to explain the criteria the National Bureau of Economic Research uses to determine whether an economy was in recession. The group doesn’t necessarily declare a recession after the country reports a second straight quarter of negative economic growth, a common definition of one.
On Monday, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters during her daily briefing that this abbreviated definition was just a journalists’ convention, not a professional assessment. “The definition used by economists is different,” she said.
This is true – not every recession includes two full quarters of negative growth, and in 1947 the economy shrank for two quarters without a recession declaration. But typically, two quarters of contraction lead to a so-called recession.
As proof that the United States has not fallen into recession, Jean-Pierre cited low unemployment, continued consumer spending and business investment. “All these indicators show us that we’re not in recession or pre-recession right now,” she said.