A temporary downturn in economic activity, usually indicated by two consecutive quarters of a falling GDP. The official NBER definition of recession (which is used to date U.S. recessions) is: A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales. A recession begins just after the economy reaches a peak of activity and ends as the economy reaches its trough. Between trough and peak, the economy is in an expansion. Expansion is the normal state of the economy; most recessions are brief and they have been rare in recent decades. The start and end dates are determined by the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). It is a popular misconception that a recession is indicated simply by two consecutive quarters of declining GDP, which is true for most, but not all recession. NBER uses monthly data to date the start and ending months of recessions.
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Copyright © 2011 Campbell R. Harvey, Professor of Finance, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University