The majority of economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal say the U.S. has finally slid into a recession.

"The evidence is now beyond a reasonable doubt," said Scott Anderson of Wells Fargo & Co. Anderson was among the 71% of 51 respondents who said the recession is here.

On Thursday, the Commerce Department said retail sales dropped 0.6% in February, reflecting a steep downturn in consumer spending.

Twenty of the economists surveyed said they expect payrolls to shrink and the unemployment rate to rise.

Of 55 respondents, 29 said they expect the economy to contract this quarter and 25 said it will contract next quarter.

With a new president to take office next year, Ben Bernanke’s job as Fed chairman is in question, with recipients giving him a 59% chance of being reappointed, regardless of whether the next president is a Democrat or Republican.

"The problems occurred on his watch," said Ram Bhagavatula of Combinatorics Capital.

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