NIESR: 0.1 per cent growth to March

Economy enters 50th month in depression

Stagnant: Ed Balls makes his infamous "flatlining" gesture.

Yes, it doesn't matter. But NIESR has released its estimate of the growth in the first quarter of 2012, and its doesn't believe the UK is in a technical recession.

The growth in the quarter leading up to March was 0.1 per cent, just above what would be required to count as two straight quarters of negative growth and thus be a recession. This doesn't mean the economy is in great, or even good, shape, however.

As NIESR's now-famous monthly graph shows, this is now the longest depression in at least a century for Britain. 50 months from the start of the recession, and output is still 4 per cent below its peak:

Slight consolation - not quite a silver lining, but maybe a bronze one - is offered by the think tank, who say:

We do expect this economic weakness to be temporary, with the recovery taking hold in 2013.

The debate in America is whether or not the recession was cyclical or structural. Specifically, whether or not they expect the recovery to help them catch up to where the economy would have been if there had been no recession, or if the lost output is permanent.

In Britain, that debate will doubtless surface eventually. But for now, ours is simpler: is our lack of recovery a cause of the government's behaviour, or a symptom?