2008 Recession Is Official

After nearly of a year of unofficial pronouncements of the country’s recession (see, for example, NPR: Official Or Not, Consumers Sense A Recession), media outlets across the country, earlier this month, announced that the recession is now official (see, for example, NPR: Recession Is Official).

So what’s the difference between an official and an unofficial recession? Unofficially, a recession could be classified as any “period of general economic decline.” Officially, a recession is a decline in “GDP for six months (two consecutive quarters) or longer.” (see recession definition at

So all this talk of recession and GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth got me thinking I should look at the data (see chart below), analyze it and see if I can find anything insightful. Here’s what I found:

  • There seems to be no correlation between GDP growth and the political party in the White House. (Which is unfortunate, for me, because I really like Republican economic policy platform of lower taxes, etc. much better than the Democrats.)
  • Economic down turns during an election year generally means the incumbent party in the White House will lose. This happened in 2008, 2000, 1992, and 1980. (Please note that I do not consider the president to be ‘Economist and Chief’, though that seems to be how the American people treat him.)
  • Average quarterly GDP growth, over the past 60 years, has been right at 3%.
  • The economic data does seems somewhat cyclical, with recessions hitting every 8 to 12 years.

    –Quarterly Growth in real GDP at annual rates, Percent
    –“The current administration has compiled the worst economic record in 50 years.” -Bill Clinton, 1992,