KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s a question America is wrestling with as we get a new check on the economy’s health in the recently released report looking at the US’s gross domestic product, which is the broadest gauge of the economy.

On Thursday, the Federal Reserve said GDP was down by 9-tenths of a percentage point in the second quarter of this year. In the first quarter, it was down by 1.6%. A shrinking economy in back-to-back quarters is commonly understood as a recession.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is the group that determines whether or not we are in a recession. The organization has many different researchers across the country and one happens to be in Knoxville.

Doctor Marianne Wanamaker, an economist and the director of Howard H Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, is a Research Associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research and a member of their economic history group.

“What happens in a recession, in recession dating, is that a group at the NBER makes a decision and often they make a decision after we’ve been in a recession for a while. So it takes the group a little while to evaluate the data,” said Wanamaker.

Though she isn’t a part of the decision-making process, she does have insight into what goes into determining if we’re in a recession.

“Over the last year we’ve seen employment continue to grow, we’ve seen household incomes begin to grow, and consumer spending has been really strong. Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen a slow down in economic growth and the estimates for both the first and second quarter are now negative,” explained Wanamaker.

However, she said people shouldn’t panic just yet.

“The argument against us being in a recession is the fact that employment continues to grow, household incomes continue to grow, and American households continue to spend more money than they spent the last quarter.”

She adds that some of the negative growth in Thursday’s report comes from housing expenditures and a reduction in consumer durables like automobile purchases.

“This is the preliminary estimate. It’s not going to be the final estimate, and whether we are in a recession officially or not is sort of irrelevant. The important thing is, how are households doing and right now again, employment and income growth both look pretty positive.”

According to Dr. Wanamaker, the information released Thursday about economic growth is just a provisional estimate. It won’t be finalized for several months.