This is the first of two back-to-back posts on US business cycle expansions and contractions. That the current expansion, which began in June 2009, is now, at 108 months—one year shy of besting the record from March 1991 to March 2001—makes good copy, if nothing else. For those who are statistically inclined, the National Bureau of Economic Research is overflowing with data. The NBER is still somewhat subjective, though, in the parameters it uses in defining the business cycle. For example, rather than stipulating dogmatically that a recession requires two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP, it specifies that a recession is 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.” This subjectivity rises to the fore in the next post.
For the moment, we will attempt to sketch thumbnail comparisons among the five longest expansions since the beginning of the 20th century with the one the matters most to us, the current expansion. Continue reading “This Isn’t Your Grandfather’s Expansion”