When did that last recession end?

"I feel good, I'm happy."

That's the sentiment on a New York City sidewalk as spring brings the promise of life returning to normal.

And across the country, trends look good. The U.S. economy is now growing at the fastest rate since the 1980s. Americans have money in the bank thanks to federal stimulus checks. And hiring is on the rise. Here's how President Joe Biden put it last week.

BIDEN: "I can report to the nation America is on the move again."

The economic crisis that struck last year might go down in history as the shortest recession on record - but that history isn't quite history yet. A recession has long been defined as two quarters, or six months, of economic contraction.

SCHNEIDER: "That really isn't used anymore. If you fall off a cliff, even if you come back fast, it's counted as a recession."

Reuters economics correspondent Howard Schneider says the U.S. board that determines when recessions start and finish now looks at a lot more data, and they've yet to close the book on 2020.

SCHNEIDER: "They're looking at GDP, which of course grew fast after that initial contraction and continues to grow, but they're also looking at month-to-month measures. You know, how many jobs have come back, how many people are filing for unemployment claims, things like personal incomes, ex-government transfers. So in other words, personal incomes have been growing quite a lot, but it's all government money."

And it’s important to say: Few believe the U.S. is still in a recession.

The Business Cycle Dating Committee looking at all the economic data is looking back at last year.

And when the committee finalizes its view, it will likely say the 2020 downturn was the shortest contraction on record – even shorter than the six-month recession in 1980.

But they’re sitting on that call for now, to be sure they can describe the lowest point of the dip and the real start of the recovery.

Perhaps most concerning to the committee is the labor market. There are still eight and half million fewer jobs in the U.S. than at the start of the pandemic. Top U.S. economic officials agree.

POWELL: "We're a long way from full employment."

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell last week made clear the Fed wasn't ready to end emergency measures to bolster growth until he saw sustained improvement.

Even the shortest recession in history can leave long-lasting scars.

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