Economic panel says COVID-19 recession ended April 2020, lasting just two months

Economic panel says COVID-19 recession ended April 2020, lasting just two months
© Getty Images

The recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic was the shortest economic downturn in modern U.S. history, a panel of economic experts declared Monday.

A panel of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a private nonprofit, said that the coronavirus recession spanned late February through early April, roughly two months from start to finish. 

NBER’s Business Cycle Dating Committee measures recessions from the peak of economic activity before the downturn through the lowest point before it began recovering. U.S. economic activity peaked in late February before the emergence of the pandemic shut down much of the country and began recovering sometime in April, the committee said.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The recent downturn had different characteristics and dynamics than prior recessions,” the panel said. 

“Nonetheless, the committee concluded that the unprecedented magnitude of the decline in employment and production, and its broad reach across the entire economy, warranted the designation of this episode as a recession, even though the downturn was briefer than earlier contractions,” it added. 

The shortest recession declared by NBER until Monday was six months spanning the first half of 1980. 

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic caused the fastest and deepest economic decline in the U.S. since the Great Depression. More than 21 million Americans lost their jobs between March 2020 and April 2020 and the economy shrank by an annualized rate of more than 33 percent in the second quarter of last year.

But the U.S. economy began to recover by May, even if it was slowly and unequally, ending the period of recession.

“In determining that a trough occurred in April 2020, the committee did not conclude that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity,” the panel said. “Economic activity is typically below normal in the early stages of an expansion, and it sometimes remains so well into the expansion.”