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As if Americans didn't have enough to worry about with stagnant wages and uncertain job prospects, now the government is preparing a revision of economic history that will show the current recovery was even weaker than previously thought.

The effort is part of a massive overhaul of the government's primary measure of the economy - the gross domestic product. All of this will have a profound effect on our understanding of such critical pocketbook issues as U.S. productivity growth and gains in American living standards.Starting in December, the government will move the old GDP measurement into the background and replace it with a new process for toting up the value of all the goods and services produced each year in a $7 trillion economy.

The Commerce Department, which is doing the work, has already given a preview of the changes. Under the old GDP measurement, the economy slowed in the April-June quarter to an annual growth rate of 0.5 percent.

The new GDP measurement, however, erased even that little bit of growth and showed the economy contracted at a rate of 0.2 percent. If that slump continues in the current quarter, it would meet the classic definition of a recession.

While most economists believe the economy is rebounding, the new GDP measure will show that growth about one-half percentage point lower than the old measurement.