On September 20, 2010, the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a non-profit group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the arbiter of when U.S. recessions begin and end, officially declared that the recession ended in June 2009 when a trough in business activity occurred in the U.S. economy. The trough marks the end of the recession that began in December 2007 and lasted 18 months, making it the longest of any recession since World War II. Previously, the longest postwar recessions were those of 1973-75 and 1981-82. Both of those recessions lasted 16 months.
While economic indicators now make a double-dip recession seem unlikely, NBER states that it will categorize any potential future economic downturn as a new recession, not a continuation of the recession that began in 2007.
Notably, however, the Committee did not conclude that our economy has returned to normal capacity. We are simply on what may be a long and winding road to a recovery that likely will require multiple quarters to achieve.
As an aside, NBER defines a recession 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.” Absent from that definition is the commonly-held public opinion that a recession is marked by two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP.