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The US Recovery Turns Ten

The best explanation for the current ten-year US economic expansion – tied for the longest since 1854 – is disappointingly simple: the Great Recession was the worst downturn since the 1930s. And if the dates of American business cycles were determined by the rule that most other countries apply, the current expansion would be far from beating the record.

CAMBRIDGE – This month marks the tenth full year of the US economic recovery that began in June 2009. Back then, a “trough” in business activity signified the end of the Great Recession that followed the 2007-08 global financial crisis. The current expansion has continued, uninterrupted, ever since.

The best explanation for the length of this recovery is disappointingly simple: the Great Recession was the United States’ worst downturn since the 1930s. The deeper the hole, the longer it takes to climb out. Yet the prolonged US expansion also highlights some important issues regarding how countries measure business cycles and economic slumps.

For starters, the ten-year milestone is especially noteworthy. Assuming that the US is not unknowingly already in a new recession, the current recovery is now tied with the decade-long expansion from March 1991 to March 2001 for the longest on record. (Records of US troughs and peaks go back to 1854.)

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