The U.S. recession ended in June 2009 and any future economic downturn would signal a new recession, the National Bureau of Economic Research announced Monday.

“The recession lasted 18 months, which makes it the longest of any recession since World War II,” the bureau said in a statement. The NBER, which is considered the arbiter of U.S. recessions, based its decision on “the length and strength of the recovery to date.”

Economic growth, as measured by quarterly gross-domestic product reports, has averaged an annualized rate of 2.2% since the end of the recession, after contracting an average of 1.9% during the recession.

The bureau identified “a trough” that signaled the end of the recession in June 2009, but concluded subsequent economic conditions have neither been favorable nor has the economy returned to normal.

Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, said the NBER statement confirms that things could be worse, despite the present trying economic times.

“We still have a long way to go to repair the damages,” she said, noting that the fact it took the bureau 15 months to confirm the end of the recession “is testimony to how weak the recovery has been.”

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