Warren Buffett: "We're Still in a Recession"

In this Feb. 22, 2010 photo, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett is interviewed before lunch with officials from Salida Capital, a Canadian Investment firm, in New York.

(Credit: AP Photo)
(CBS/AP) A leading economic research group has pronounced the U.S. officially emerged from the "great recession" more than a year ago, but billionaire investor Warren Buffett begs to differ.

"We're still in a recession," the Oracle of Omaha told CNBC Thursday. "We're not gonna be out of it for a while, but we will get out."

The National Burea of Economic Research said Monday that country's 18-month long recession ended in June 2009. But Buffett uses a different criteria for evaluating the U.S. recovery, saying the recession will be over once real per capita gross domestic product returns to pre-recession levels.

Buffett also told CNBC that the government "did the right thing in terms of getting the economy going again."

"It can't do it overnight or anything of the sort," he said.

The country's sluggish recovery has become a central theme heading into November's midterm elections, with the Obama administration and congressional Democrats taking significant heat over an unemployment rate that has hovered in the area of 10 percent.

See Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's interview with Katie Couric on the state of the economy

During a town hall meeting Monday, a woman named Velma Hart captured the country's frustration in an exchange with President Obama.


I'm one of your middle-class Americans, and, quite frankly, I'm exhausted," said Hart, the chief financial officer of AMVETS in Washington. "I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for and deeply disappointed with where we are right now."

"I understand your frustration," Mr. Obama responded. "My goal is not to convince you that everything is where it ought to be. It's not." Still, he added: "We're moving in the right direction."

The NBER's opinion on the end of the recession factors figures that make up the nation's gross domestic product, which measures the total value of goods and services produced within the United States. It also reviews incomes, employment and industrial activity.

The economy started growing again in the July-to-September quarter of 2009 after contracting just 0.7 percent the previous quarter - a far less dramatic decline than in the preceding three quarters.

The economy lost 7.3 million jobs in the 2007-2009 recession, also the most in the post World War II period.

"I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I am one of those people. And I'm waiting, Sir. ... I don't feel it yet," said Hart. "Is this my new reality?"

Copyright MMX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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