Skip to main content

The Recession and Recovery in Perspective

Loading employment chart...
Select individual recessions to compare.

View Data

Notes:

  1. Employment is nonfarm payroll employment calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  2. Open data table for data on individual recessions and recoveries.
  3. *The NBER determined that the 2020 recession began in February 2020.
Loading output chart...
Select individual recessions to compare.

View Data

Notes:

  1. Output is gross domestic product adjusted for inflation as calculated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  2. Open data table for data on individual recessions and recoveries.
  3. *The NBER determined that the 2007 recession ended in June 2009 (the second quarter).

View Data

Notes:

  1. Employment is nonfarm payroll employment calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  2. Postwar recessions include the 10 recessions as defined by the NBER that started between 1946 and 2006.
  3. Open data table to see how the mildest, median and harshest lines are calculated, and for data on individual recessions.

View Data

Notes:

  1. Output is gross domestic product adjusted for inflation as calculated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  2. Postwar recessions include the 10 recessions as defined by the NBER that started between 1946 and 2006.
  3. Open data table to see how the mildest, median and harshest lines are calculated, and for data on individual recessions.

Background on Recession/Recovery in Perspective

This page places the current economic downturn and recovery into historical (post-WWII) perspective. It compares output and employment changes from the current 2020 recession and subsequent recovery with the same data for the 11 previous recessions and recoveries that have occurred since 1946.

This page provides a current assessment of 'how bad' the current 2020 recession is relative to past recessions, and how quickly the economy is recovering relative to past recoveries. It will continue to be updated as new data are released. This page does not provide forecasts, and the information should not be interpreted as such.

The charts provide information about the length and depth of recessions, and the robustness of recoveries.

Post-WWII Recessions

The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research determines the beginning and ending dates of U.S. recessions. 

It has determined that the U.S. economy experienced 11 recessions from 1946 through 2019. The committee has not yet determined an end date to the current recession. Ending dates are typically announced several months after the recession officially ends.

Length of Recessions

The 11 previous postwar recessions ranged in length from 6 months to 18 months, averaging about 11 months. The 2007-09 recession was the longest recession in the postwar period, at 18 months.

Depth of Recessions

The severity of a recession is determined in part by its length; perhaps even more important is the magnitude of the decline in economic activity. Previously, the 2007-09 recession was the deepest recession in the postwar period. But that has been eclipsed by the current recession.