While the U.S. unemployment rate has gone down in recent months, there is general agreement that this decline is due to a shrinking labor force – not sustained job growth (and certainly not job growth that’s sufficient to keep up with our nation’s expanding population).

Look no further than April’s disappointing data¬† … or this report.

Anyway, now comes news that growth in America’s gross domestic product (i.e. the total value of goods and services produced in our country) may be cooling. The government is still estimating growth of 2.2 percent for the first quarter of 2012 (down from 3 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011), but that figure is far from robust¬† – assuming it winds up being accurate.

According to a CNN Money report, “four of the past six recessions started during a quarter when GDP was growing, as did 72 percent of all recessions in the past 94 years.”

The report adds that “the initial quarter of the Great Recession of 2007-09 showed 1.7 percent GDP growth, while the severe 1973-75 and 1981-82 recessions began with 3.9 percent and 4.9 percent GDP growth, respectively.”

Finally, the report reveals that government estimates regarding GDP expansion are often wildly inaccurate.

For example, “it took more than a year to learn that GDP actually shrank by 1.3 percent during the first quarter of the 2001 recession. But back then, it was initially reported as having grown at 2.0 percent. That’s not very different from the latest reading for GDP growth …”

Scary …

In other words, the U.S. economy could already be in another recession and we just don’t know it yet. Also, indicators that we can track now – like a U.S. trade deficit which widened to $51.8 billion in March – don’t bode well for the GDP.

Hopefully the recent softness in the employment market will prove temporary and these concerns about a second recession will prove unfounded.

If not, though, we could be in for a very bumpy ride …