Key Vocabulary

  • economy
  • contraction
  • significant
  • decline
  • employment
  • industrial
  • production
  • wholesale
  • retail
  • consecutive
  • quarter(s)
  • sustain
  • depression
  • GDP: Gross Domestic Product


A recession is a contraction phase of the business cycle. The U.S. based National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) defines a recession more broadly as "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales." A sustained recession may become a depression.

American newspapers often quote the rule of thumb that a recession occurs when real gross domestic product (GDP) growth is negative for two or more consecutive quarters. This measure fails to register several official (NBER defined) US recessions.


See other Words in the News.

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Last updated: 15 February, 2010 02:43:16