While pundits have recently downplayed the odds of another recession, the economy still looks vulnerable, judging by recent data and past history. Merrill Lynch's David Rosenberg, a typically bearish economist, said this week that the chances of a double-dip recession have been "reduced significantly," due to diminished geopolitical worries, lower oil prices and tighter credit spreads. But the latest data seem to suggest that the economy is still on a knife's edge. With consumer spending accounting for two-thirds of economic growth in this country, jobs are key. And yet the labor market is continuing to struggle, with the unemployment rate rising to an eight-year high of 6% in April. Perhaps more significantly, the economy lost 525,000 jobs over the last three months. Since World War II, there has been only one time that the economy lost jobs for three straight months without being in a recession, and that occurred during a steel industry strike in 1952, according to Bloomberg. Recent manufacturing data, meanwhile, also seemed to have dashed hopes for a powerful recovery once the war had ended. In fact, the Institute for Supply Management number fell to 45.4, its lowest reading since October 2001. Whenever the ISM has dropped below 45 in the past, it has typically signaled an economic contraction. Over the last month, 68% of economic news releases have been worse than expected, and revisions of prior data have generally been down, according to Merrill Lynch. In many ways, the current environment is similar to that of May 2001, when the economy was receding. Back then, economists also were beginning to dismiss the idea of a recession because the yield curve had started to steepen and GDP growth had just come in at 2% for the first quarter. That would ultimately be revised down to negative 0.6%. An initial reading on growth for the first quarter of 2003 came in at 1.6%. Also back then, the Nasdaq had surged 30% from its lows, whereas today, the Nasdaq is up 32% from its worst point.