When Did the Great Recession End?


Is the Great Recession over? NBER is the official dater of recessions, and last week they declined to say that this one was officially done. Bruce Bartlett comments:

I’m rather astounded at all the ill-informed commentary I have read today in normally responsible places such as the Financial Times to the effect that the National Bureau of Economic Research is not sure that the recession is over. That is not at all the case. I am 100% certain that every member of the Business Cycle Dating Committee knows perfectly well that the recession ended some time ago. What the committee is unsure about is precisely when the recession ended.

By coincidence, I happened be over at the NBER site yesterday because I was wondering how long it usually took to officially call the end of a recession, and the answer is right on the main business cycle dating page for the last four downturns:

  • The November 2001 trough was announced July 17, 2003.
  • The March 1991 trough was announced December 22, 1992.
  • The November 1982 trough was announced July 8, 1983.
  • The July 1980 trough was announced July 8, 1981.

So that’s 20 months, 22 months, 8 months, and 13 months. And since the current recession is sort of broadly U-shaped, not V-shaped, it would hardly be surprising if the waiting time for NBER’s official call is toward the high end of this range. In any case, if the recession did officially end in mid-2009, as most analysts think, that was only 11 months ago and it would be perfectly normal for NBER to take another few months to get its numerical ducks in a row regardless of its shape. More here from Robert Gordon, a member of the NBER recession dating committee.