NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Calling Recessions in Real Time

James D. Hamilton

NBER Working Paper No. 16162
Issued in July 2010
NBER Program(s):   EFG

This paper surveys efforts to automate the dating of business cycle turning points. Doing this on a real time, out-of-sample basis is a bigger challenge than many academics might presume due to factors such as data revisions and changes in economic relationships over time. The paper stresses the value of both simulated real-time analysis-- looking at what the inference of a proposed model would have been using data as they were actually released at the time-- and actual real-time analysis, in which a researcher stakes his or her reputation on publicly using the model to generate out-of-sample, real-time predictions. The immediate publication capabilities of the internet make the latter a realistic option for researchers today, and many are taking advantage of it. The paper reviews a number of approaches to dating business cycle turning points and emphasizes the fundamental trade-off between parsimony-- trying to keep the model as simple and robust as possible-- and making full use of available information. Different approaches have different advantages, and the paper concludes that there may be gains from combining the best features of several different approaches.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16162

Published: Hamilton, James D., 2011. "Calling recessions in real time," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 1006-1026, October. citation courtesy of

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