Bernanke Says Recession Appears To Be Over

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says the recession appears to be over, but he cautioned that the economy probably won't grow very fast for a while, and unemployment is likely to remain high. He made the remarks Tuesday, shortly after the release of some encouraging new data about retail sales.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And one man who's been trying to steady the economy is the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Ben Bernanke said yesterday the recession appears to be over, but he cautioned that the economy probably won't grow very fast for a while, and unemployment is likely to remain high.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI: Economists have been predicting that the long, painful recession would probably be finished before the end of the year, but this was the first time that Bernanke himself said it may actually be over. He also struck a note of caution.

Mr. BEN BERNANKE (Federal Reserve Chairman): Even though from a technical perspective the recession is very likely over at this point, it's still going to feel like a very weak economy for some time.

ZARROLI: He said the rebound and growth would probably be moderate through next year because of ongoing headwinds in the economy like tight credit conditions, and he said without strong growth, unemployment will be slow to fall. He said it will come down but it will take some time. Bernanke made the remarks at the Brookings Institution in Washington during a question and answer session on the first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The remarks came shortly after the release of a Commerce Department report saying retail sales rose at their fastest rate in three and a half years in August. The report suggests that consumer spending may finally be reviving, but economists cautioned that the rebound was partly because of a one-time-only boost from the Cash for Clunkers program.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

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