By Vicki Needham - 09/20/10 03:28 PM EDT
The recession ended in June 2009 and lasted longer than any economic downturn since World War II, according to a group that is the official arbiter of when recessions begin and end.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a panel of academic economists in Cambridge, Mass., reported on Monday that the recession lasted 18 months and began in December 2007.
Before the most recent downturn, the longest post-war recessions in the U.S. were from 1973 to 1975 and from 1981 to 1982. Each of those lasted 16 months.
The NBER economists judged the length of the recession from economic indicators such as real gross domestic product, real income, employment, industrial production and wholesale retail sales.
The panel noted in its report that it was not commenting on the strength of the economic recovery.
"In determining that a trough occurred in June 2009, the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity," the report said. "Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month."
The economic recovery has been slow and plagued with stubbornly high unemployment. The White House and Congress have been looking for ways to accelerate the pace of expansion in order to reduce the 9.6 percent unemployment rate.
Federal Reserve officials will meet Tuesday to discuss other ways to boost the recovery. They are expected to hold interest rates near zero.
Notably, the NBER said any future downturn of the economy would be a new recession and not a continuation of the recession that began in December 2007 — the so-called "double-dip" scenario.
"The basis for this decision was the length and strength of the recovery to date," the report said.