WASHINGTON ― For the past month or so, Republicans have insisted that the U.S. economy is in a recession, a period of reduced economic activity that can be politically devastating for the party in power.
Then, on Friday, the U.S. Labor Department announced the economy added half a million jobs last month, pushing the national unemployment rate down to 3.5% ― almost as low as it has ever gotten, and a strong indication that the economy is not, in fact, in a recession.
Still, Republicans insisted at a press conference on Friday, where they bashed Democrats’ plans to pass a major domestic policy bill, that there’s a recession going on.
“We’re in a recession and this [bill] is going to make it worse,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.
HuffPost asked the five Republican senators at the presser how July’s job growth could happen in a recession. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) pointed out that in the first and second quarters of the year, the U.S. saw negative growth in gross domestic product, an important economic metric.
“The definition of recession is negative GDP growth in two successive quarters,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy has a point: If you do a Google search for the definition of the word “recession,” the top dictionary result calls it “a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.”
But economists don’t use a simple rule of thumb to figure out when the economy is in recession ― they follow ...