The Great Recession officially started in December 2007. But it wasn’t clear back then that the US economy has begun to tumble into a deep downturn. At least not to the Federal Reserve, which just released its 2007 FOMC meeting transcripts. Here is Fed chief economist Dave Stockton:
Overall, our forecast could admittedly be read as still painting a pretty benign picture: Despite all the financial turmoil, the economy avoids recession and, even with steeply higher prices for food and energy and a lower exchange value of the dollar, we achieve some modest edging-off of inflation. So I tried not to take it personally when I received a notice the other day that the Board had approved more-frequent drug-testing for certain members of the senior staff, myself included. [Laughter] I can assure you, however, that the staff is not going to fall back on the increasingly popular celebrity excuse that we were under the influence of mind-altering chemicals and thus should not be held responsible for this forecast. No, we came up with this projection unimpaired and on nothing stronger than many late nights of diet Pepsi and vending-machine Twinkies.
Although the sharp swing in activity from the third to the fourth quarters is exaggerated by some wide fluctuations in inventory investment, we are reading the incoming data as suggesting that there has been a greater downshift in the underlying pace of growth than we had previously anticipated. Furthermore, we expect activity to remain sluggish next year, growing 1¼ percent, nearly ½ percentage point less than in our October projection. In 2009, real GDP is projected to grow at a 2.1 percent pace, a touch below our previous forecast. …
I still see the generally firm conditions in labor markets as suggesting some upside risk to our view that the economy is in the process of slowing sharply.
And yes, that joke in the beginning is likely to become infamous among Fed watchers.