Democrats and Republicans have begun arguing over whether the U.S. economy is in a recession ahead of a key data release on Thursday. But the official pronouncement will ultimately come down to a little-known group of economists selected by the National Bureau of Economic Research called the “Business Cycle Dating Committee,” which stubbornly takes its time and tries to wall itself off from political interference or attempts to spin its findings.
The stakes for the group are high, in part because of the extraordinarily unusual economic conditions two years after the last recession, early in the coronavirus pandemic. The economy contracted in the first quarter of the year, and many Republicans say a recession is here already, with Thursday’s release expected by many analysts to show a second consecutive quarter of negative growth. But from President Biden down, administration officials are instead pointing to other indicators showing the economy remains strong and insisting the committee would be wrong to declare a recession.