Gov't: Great Recession Bit Less 'Great Than Thought

WASHINGTON (AP) — Here's a small consolation: The Great Recession wasn't quite as horrendous as previously thought.

But it was still pretty horrendous: Updated government estimates from Jan. 2009 through Dec. 2011 show that the downturn remains by far the worst recession since the Great Depression.

And economic growth since the recession officially ended in June 2009 has been slightly less than previous estimates. That's a reminder of how weak the recovery has been.

The revisions were released Friday by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis with its report on April-June growth. Each year in July, the bureau revises the previous three years of data on the nation's gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy.

The changes show the economy shrank 4.7 percent from the start of the recession in December 2007 until it ended three years ago. That's 0.4 percentage point less than the previous estimate of 5.1 percent.

The main reason for the revision: State and local governments spent more in 2009 than initially thought.

Still, only two previous recessions suffered contractions greater than 3 percent. One was in 1957, the other in 1973.

Since the Great Recession ended, growth has been modest at best. From July 2009 through the end of 2011, the economy grew at an average annual pace of only 2.3 percent. That's 0.1 percentage point slower than the government's previous estimate.

The revisions are based on more complete data from a range of sources, including annual Census surveys of retailers and manufacturers and IRS tax records. The IRS data is made available only after a two-year lag. The Census data are also delayed.