The NBER’s Business Cycle Dating Committee determines when peaks and troughs in economic activity occur A recession is the period between the peak and a trough. A recovery is the period between a trough and a peak.

A recession is a period of significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months and normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales. Similarly, during an expansion, economic activity rises substantially and spreads across the economy.

In both recessions and expansions, brief reversals in economic activity may occur — a recession may include a short period of expansion followed by further decline; an expansion may include a short period of contraction followed by further growth.

The Business Cycle Dating Committee does not have a fixed definition of economic activity. It examines and compares the behavior of various measures of broad activity: real GDP measured on the product and income sides, economy-wide employment, and real income. The Committee also may consider indicators that do not cover the entire economy, such as real sales and the Federal Reserve's index of industrial production. The Committee's use of these indicators in conjunction with the broad measures recognizes the issue of double-counting of sectors included in both those indicators and the broad measures. Still, a well-defined peak or trough in real sales or IP might help to determine the overall peak or trough dates, particularly if the economy-wide indicators are in conflict or do not have well-defined peaks or troughs. The Committee has no fixed rule to determine whether a contraction is only a short interruption of an expansion, or an expansion is only a short interruption of a contraction. The most recent example of such a judgment that was less than obvious was in 1980-1982, when the Committee determined that the contraction that began in 1981 was not a continuation of the one that began in 1980, but rather a separate full recession.

 

June 8, 2020 Determination of the February 2020 Peak in US Economic Activity

September 20, 2010  announcement of June 2009 business cycle trough/end of last recession

April 12, 2010 Memo from the Business Cycle Dating Committee

December 1, 2008 announcement of December 2007 business cycle peak/beginning of last recession

January 7, 2008 Memo from the Business Cycle Dating Committee

October 21, 2003 Memo from the Business Cycle Dating Committee

July 17, 2003 announcement of November 2001 business cycle trough/end of last recession

November 26, 2001 announcement of March 2001 business cycle peak/beginning of last recession

December 22, 1992 announcement of March 1991 business cycle trough/end of last recession

April 25, 1991 announcement of July 1990 business cycle peak/beginning of last recession

December 21, 1990 Memo from the Business Cycle Dating Committee

July 8, 1983 announcement of November 1982 business cycle trough/end of last recession

January 6, 1982 announcement of July 1981 business cycle peak/beginning of last recession

July 8, 1981 announcement of July 1980 business cycle trough/end of last recession

June 3, 1980 announcement of January 1980 business cycle peak/beginning of last recession

December 31, 1979 Memo from the Business Cycle Dating Committee

October 25, 1979 Memo from the Business Cycle Dating Committee

July 27, 1979 Memo from the Business Cycle Dating Committee