Business

New data show Great Recession not so bad, recovery a bit stronger

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WASHINGTON -- The Great Recession wasn't quite as bad as previously thought and the recovery since 2009 has been a bit stronger, according to a periodic data recalculation designed to better reflect the economic impact of movies, TV shows and other intellectual property.

The economy contracted an at average annual rate of 2.9% during the recession, which ran from the fourth quarter of 2007 through the second quarter of 2009, compared to the previous estimate of a 3.2% contraction, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

The economy has expanded since then at an average annual rate of 2.2%, compared to the previous estimate of 2.1%. Growth was significantly stronger in 2012, revised up to 2.8% from the earlier 2.2% estimate.

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The department's Bureau of Economic Analysis periodically adjusts how it calculates different types of activity to reflect the changing nature of the economy.

The latest revision was the first since 2009 and was applied to data on total economic output, also known as gross domestic product, dating to 1929.

The government has changed the way it accounts for the economic impact of movies and TV shows and research and development expenses. They have been recalculated as easier-to-measure business investments, which has boosted the level of economic growth in previous years.

"A pharmaceutical company develops a new cancer drug. A Hollywood studio creates a box-office blockbuster.  A songwriter records a new hit," the Bureau of Economic Analysis wrote in a post on its blog this week.

Now, in accordance with a 2008 international agreement, the goverment "will begin including the amount of money businesses invest in the production of such intellectual property as part of gross domestic product."

The change meant that the average annual growth rate of the U.S. economy from 1929-2012 was 3.3%, up 0.1 percentage points from the previous estimate for the period.

A similar change was made regarding computer software -- another so-called "intangible asset" -- in the 1990s.

Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, touted the new data as showing the economic recovery has been "slightly faster" than originally thought.

In a blog post, he noted that the economy has expanded by a cumulative 8.5% from the second quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2013.

He acknowledged that the Great Recession was "slightly less severe than previously reported" but that it still was the worst downturn since the government began reporting quarterly economic data in 1947.

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