Investor's wiki



What Is a Recession in Simple Terms?

Just as corporations experience general phases of growth and contraction, referred to in sum as their business cycle, the economy also experiences tops, classified by expansion and high employment, and inevitable valleys, which are periods of decline known as recessions.
Simply put, a recession occurs when there is a reduction in economic activity. During the 1970s, economist Julius Shiskin acquired acclaim for ordering a recession as two consecutive quarters of declining GDP growth; however, the present economists think about a lot more factors, which we'll discuss below.

Who Declares a Recession?

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is viewed as the leading authority on U.S. economic issues. It determines whether the U.S. economy is in expansion or recession. It characterizes a recession as "a recurring period of decline in total output, income, employment, and trade, usually lasting from six months to a year, and set apart by boundless contractions in numerous sectors of the economy." Using statistics, the NBER can calculate the exact beginning and end dates of recessions.

Glossary of Recession Terms

  • Recession: A period that experiences a critical GDP decline over months that also witnesses a reduction in personal income, employment, retail sales, and industrial production
  • Expansion: The "normal state" of the economy, during which GDP develops
  • Peak: The month when economic indicators are at their level, followed by a decline
  • Trough: The month when the economic indicators hit their lowest point before beginning to rise over a sustained period
  • Total national output (GDP): The measure of all of the goods and services that make up the economy, such as consumer goods, business investment, government inventories, and net exports (GDP is viewed as more reliable than GDI because it considers a broader โ€” and timelier โ€” set of data)
  • Gross Domestic Income (GDI): Another approach to measuring the economic output via account incomes earned and costs incurred in production

What number of Recessions Have There Been in Recent History?

Starting around 1971, there have been seven recessions, as per NBER.

Peak Month (Peak Quarter)Trough Month (Trough Quarter)
November 1973March 1975
January 1980July 1980
July 1981November 1982
July 1990March 1991
March 2001November 2001ย 
December 2007ย June 2009
February 2020April 2020
NBER says the U.S. has experienced 7 recessions since 1970Source: NBER

What Causes a Recession? What Are Some Examples?

A healthy economy is a delicate ecosystem made out of ever-changing variables like consumer spending, consumer confidence, maximum employment, and minimum interest rates. The Federal Reserve attempts to nurture this balance through careful monetary policies and targeted interest rates.

Inflation-Triggered Recessions

Recessions are notoriously difficult to anticipate. "It's a fantasy that expansions pass on from old age," former Fed Chair Janet Yellen famously quipped. All things being equal, a recession can be set off by a combination of factors; for example, when demand outpaces supply and inflation rises, effectively overheating the economy. High interest rates, stale wages, and rising unemployment can also lead to recession.
One example of an inflation-set off recession is the recession of 1960, which lasted for a long time. After the Fed began bringing interest rates up in 1958, unemployment levels crested at 6.9%, and GDP dropped by 2% from April 1960 to February 1961. At the point when President John F. Kennedy introduced a stimulus spending plan in 1961, offering tax cuts and expanded unemployment and Social Security benefits, the economy staged a rebound.

Recessions Caused by Economic Shock

A recession can also be set off by an unexpected, one-time event that effectively rattles the economy, such as the oil crisis during the 1970s, when OPEC cut off its oil supply to the United States. Another, later example is the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, which sent shockwaves around the world as economies shut down trying to curb disease transmission. In the United States alone, a record 16 million people filed for unemployment benefits in April of 2020, totaling nearly 10% of the labor force.

Recessions Caused by Asset Bubbles

In the stock market, a bubble is shaped when stock prices rapidly rise out of extent to their fundamental value. The equivalent can occur with whole sectors and industries in the economy โ€” and what goes up and up frequently must descend. The inflated asset is met with overreacted selling, and the market can crash as a result, triggering a recession.
The Tech Boom of the late 1990s had turned bust by 2000, as selloffs caused the tech-heavy NASDAQ to lose over 75% of its value. Numerous internet companies declared bankruptcy while communications and online business platforms lost a huge share of their market cap.
Individual speculation during the lead-up to this period had been perfect to the point that Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan even invented a term for it: "irrational exuberance." What followed was a 8-month recession from March-November 2001, which also included the 9/11 psychological oppressor assaults on the World Trade Center, further discouraging the market. Unemployment topped at 5.5%, while GDP fell by 0.6%.

What Are the Effects of a Recession?

A recession has profound implications on every feature of society. At the point when the economy falters, people lose their positions. Manufacturing output declines and prices fall. Businesses fold โ€” sometimes banks do, too.
People feel the squeeze in their pockets and spend less on everything from discretionary things like vacations and technology to big-ticket purchases like automobiles and real estate. But the biggest impact might be one that is not even tangible. Psychological and emotional results of a recession range from a decline in confidence to a feeling that "things will not ever be basically as great as they have been."
The term animal spirits, instituted by 20th-century economist John Maynard Keyes, says everything. At the point when people rely more on fundamental impulses and feeling, their navigation gets impacted and, taken in sum, like when there's alarm based selling in the stock market, their feelings can actually influence the economy.

The Shapes of Recession

Economists look to the alphabet to depict a recession and subsequent period of recovery.

V-Shaped and U-Shaped

V-shaped recessions are short in timeframe and described by sharp declines with clearly defined troughs and recoveries. These recessions usually last 12-year and a half. A variation on this would be a U-shaped recession, which has a longer trough. It would require a couple of additional years to arrive at recovery in this occurrence.


W-shaped recessions are also known as double-dip recessions. The economy enters a recession, then, at that point, achieves a short recovery, which is then followed by another decline and subsequent rebound. These recessions typically last 2-4 years.


Maybe the most over the top startling state of recession is the L-shaped recession, which is set apart by a strong decline and trough that requires numerous years. Recovery might very well never occur.

Might I at any point Predict a Recession?

Economists look to the U.S. Treasury Department for clues on an approaching recession. That is because a rare phenomenon happens that can be predictive of a looming recession: The yield curve becomes inverted, standing out as truly newsworthy around the world.
Treasury bills and bonds are conservative investments that captivate investors by donning a rate of interest, also known as yield. Usually, long-term Treasuries, such as the 30-Year Treasury, have higher yields than short-or intermediate-term Treasuries. However, on occasion, the yields of the short-term Treasuries can become higher than the long-term Treasuries due to weakening economic conditions. They are perceived as having more risk (default risk) than the longer-term investments and thus offer more interest as a temptation. At the point when this occurs, it's called an inverted yield curve.
The U.S. Treasury Department publishes yield curve rates daily on its website so anyone might be able to see โ€” and study closely.

Recession Vs. Depression: What's the Difference?

The two recessions and depressions are economic downturns, but a depression is more severe. The Great Depression of the 1930s, which started with a stock market crash in 1929, is an example of a prolonged period of contraction. During this time period, output fell by 30% while unemployment soared to 25%. The Great Depression also saw a period of deflation, when prices fell by nearly 10% each year. It took the election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 โ€” and, eventually, World War II โ€” to reestablish occupations and improve the economy.

Are We Entering a Recession?

Every day, financial pundits try to peruse the tea leaves of monthly economic data, but we could not ever actually know when we are entering a recession until we're in one. That is because NBER's approach is retrospective. At the end of the day, it waits 12-year and a half to classify business cycle periods. Maybe its understanding of human nature is just essentially as broad as its knowledge of economics.
That being said, TheStreet's Dan Weil reports that numerous economists really do see a strong chance of recession in our not so distant future.


  • A recession is a period of declining economic performance across a whole economy that lasts for a considerable length of time.
  • Businesses, investors, and government officials track various economic indicators that can help anticipate or affirm the beginning of recessions, but they're officially declared by the NBER.
  • A variety of economic speculations have been developed to explain how and why recessions occur.