Are We In a Recession Yet? Technically No, But... with AP

Even though the economy continued to grow in the first quarter, many economists believe we're already in a recession.

The gross domestic product, a broad snapshot of the economy, grew only 0.6 percent in the first three months of this year, the government reported.

The statistic did not meet what economists consider the classic definition of a recession, which is a retraction of the economy for six straight months. But that didn't happen in the last recession--in 2001.

A panel of experts at the National Bureau of Economic Research that determines when U.S. recessions begin and end uses a broader definition, taking into account income, employment and other barometers.

That finding is usually made well after the fact.

During the first three months of this year, job losses neared the staggering quarter-million mark. The unemployment rate has climbed to 5.1 percent and is expected to move higher in the coming months.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, earlier this month, acknowledged for the first time that a recession this year was possible.

President Bush on Tuesday said the country was dealing with "difficult times." Bush said he understood Americans' anxiety over soaring gas prices, record-high home foreclosures and other economic woes.

The government's $168 billion economic-stimulus package--including tax rebates that started flowing to bank accounts on Monday--should help energize the economy in the second half of this year, the Bush administration and Federal Reserve officials say.

Democrats in Congress insist more relief needs to be provided, including additional unemployment benefits to cushion the pain of joblessness.

The administration has resisted, saying the rebates and other stimulative efforts should be sufficient once they fully kick in.