Dale Oxley doesn’t need to hear about rising odds of a U.S. recession to dread the future. For the West Virginia homebuilder, the downturn has already arrived. “Everyone is going to have to tighten their belts,” said Oxley, the 48-year-old owner of a Charleston-area construction company. “The next couple of years are going to be difficult.” As economists size up the chances of the first nationwide slump since 2009, pockets of the country are already contracting.
Four states — Alaska, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming — are in a recession, and three others are at risk of prolonged declines, according to indexes of state economic performance tracked by Moody’s Analytics. The regions suffering the most are in the flop stage of the energy industry’s boom-to-bust cycle, and manufacturing-dependent areas hurt by a rising dollar are at risk of receding. Whether the weak links break the entire U.S. economy will hinge largely on a group that’s benefited from the energy price collapse: American consumers. READ MORE