President Biden and his aides on Monday escalated a campaign to try to convince American voters that the nation has not fallen into recession, before the release this week of new data that could show the economy continues to shrink.
“God willing, I don’t think we’re going to see a recession,” Mr. Biden said after a virtual meeting with high-tech manufacturing executives and union leaders. The event was aimed at promoting a China competitiveness bill that the Senate could pass this week.
Recession fears have prompted many of Mr. Biden’s aides to brief reporters on the economy’s overall health, including the administration’s view that a hot labor market is among the many signs showing the economy has not dipped into a downturn.
The technical details of what constitutes a recession have given the White House and Republicans some very nerdy talking points before gross domestic product data is released on Thursday. Growth in the first quarter was reported at negative 1.6 percent, and the new data is expected to show that the U.S. economy grew little or perhaps shrank again in the second quarter.
Republican lawmakers have increasingly accused the president of redefining commonly understood terms to try to make the economy appear healthier than it is.
“News flash for Joe Biden,” the Republican National Committee said in a news release on Monday. “You can’t change reality by arguing over definitions.”
Administration officials have again and again rejected that claim, taking pains to explain the criteria that the National Bureau of Economic Research uses to determine whether an economy was in a recession. The group does not necessarily declare a recession after the country reports a second consecutive quarter of negative economic growth, a common definition of one.
On Monday, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters during her daily briefing that that shorthand definition was merely a convention of journalists, not a professional evaluation. “The definition used by economists differs,” she said.
That is true — not every recession includes two full quarters of negative growth, and in 1947 the economy shrank for two quarters without a recession declaration. But typically, two quarters of contraction lead to a recession call.
As evidence that the United States has not fallen into recession, Ms. Jean-Pierre cited low unemployment, continued consumer spending and business investment. “All of those indicators show us that we’re not in a recession or in a pre-recession at this time,” she said.