What is the difference between a recession and a depression?
The word “depression” is popping up more often than at any time in the past 60 years, but what exactly does it mean? The popular rule of thumb for a recession is two consecutive quarters of falling GDP. 22 America’s National Bureau of Economic Research has officially declared a recession based on a more rigorous analysis of a range of economic indicators. But there is no widely accepted definition of depression. So how severe does this current slump have to get before it warrants the “D” word?
goes to the one in 1873-79, which lasted 65 months.
Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s was not a depression, according to these criteria, because the largest peak-to-trough decline in real GDP was only 3.4%, over the two years to March 1999. Since the second world war, only one developed economy has suffered a drop in GDP of more than 10%: Finland’s contracted by 11% during the three years to 1993, mainly thanks to the collapse of the Soviet Union, then its biggest trading partner.
prone. Among the 25 emerging economies covered each week in the back pages of The Economist, there have been no fewer than 13 instances in the past 30 years of a decline in real GDP of more than 10%. Argentina and Poland were afflicted twice. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand all suffered double-digit drops in output during the Asian crisis of 1997-98, and Russia’s GDP shrank by a shocking 45% between 1990 and 1998.
the economy; and income taxes automatically fall and unemployment benefits rise, helping to support incomes. Another reason is that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when countries were on the gold standard, the money supply usually shrank during 23 recessions, exacerbating the downturn. Waves of bank failures also often made things worse.
were all associated with financial panics and falling prices: in both 1893-94 and 1907-08 real GDP declined by almost 10%; in 1919-21, it fell by 13%.
, does not have to be “Great” in the 1930s sense. On his definition, depressions, like recessions, can be mild or severe.