By Walter Hamilton
September 20, 2011, 1:01 a.m.

The national economy is in “far worse” shape than it was just three months ago, but neither the U.S. nor California is expected to slip back into recession, according to UCLA researchers.

The U.S. economy has “stalled,” the job market is “horrible,” and even a “modest shock” could trigger a full-blown recession, according to a quarterly economic forecast released Tuesday by UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

But in a nuance that only an economist could appreciate, a recession is unlikely because the forces that normally spur downturns, such as a falloff in home construction, are already so weak that further deterioration won’t do that much additional damage.

A sudden drop in exports or consumer spending could trigger a recession, though it is considered unlikely at the moment, according to the report.

The U.S. growth rate is expected to pick up between 2.5% and 3% by mid-2012 from 0.9% currently, with about 150,000 net jobs being added each month compared with no job growth last month, forecasters said in the report.

But even that would be far too tepid to make a dent in the stubbornly high unemployment rate, which is projected to drop to only 8.6% by the end of 2013 from the current 9.1%.

“You could make a reasonable argument that we never had a recovery and we’re, in fact, in one long slump,” said David Shulman, a UCLA senior economist.

Economists at UCLA are the latest to weigh in on whether the U.S. will lapse into another recession. Last week, the chief economist at Moody’s Investors Service put the chances of entering a double-dip recession within the next year at 40%.

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