The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has made it official: On Monday the NBER concluded the economy peaked in February and entered into recession.
That marks the end of the longest economic expansion in American history, which started in June 2009 following the end of the Great Recession. That 128 month expansion tops the previous record of 120 months between March 1991 to March 2001.
“The committee recognizes that the pandemic and the public health response have resulted in a downturn with different characteristics and dynamics than prior recessions. Nonetheless, it concluded that the unprecedented magnitude of the decline in employment and production, and its broad reach across the entire economy, warrants the designation of this episode as a recession, even if it turns out to be briefer than earlier contractions,” the NBER wrote in its release.
But even as the NBER officially rules this a recession, some economists think we’ve already moved from the COVID-19 recession back to expansion. Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told Fortune last week that based on the decline in Americans on unemployment benefits and other positive data points, the recession ended in May. Indeed, jobs report released on Friday showed the unemployment rate dropped from 14.7% in April to 13.3% in May.
The rule of thumb to merit the designation of a recession is two quarters of decline. Even if this recession ended in May, it will easily meet that definition. First quarter GDP declined 4.8%, and the decline in the second quarter is expected to be well over 20%.