definition of businessThe NBERs Business Cycle Dating Committee

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The Committee does not have a fixed definition of economic activity. It examines and compares the behavior of various measures of broad activity real P measured on the product and income sides, economywide employment, and real income. The Committee also may consider indicators that do not cover the entire economy, such as real sales and the Federal Reserves index of industrial production IP. The Committees use of these indicators in conjunction with the broad measures recognizes the issue of doublecounting of sectors included in both those indicators and the broad measures. Still, a welldefined peak or trough in real sales or IP might help to determine the overall peak or trough dates, particularly if the economywide indicators are in conflict or do not have welldefined peaks or troughs.


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In both recessions and expansions, brief reversals in economic activity may occura recession may include a short period of expansion followed by further decline; an expansion may include a short period of contraction followed by further growth. The Committee applies its judgment based on the above definitions of recessions and expansions and has no fixed rule to determine whether a contraction is only a short interruption of an expansion, or an expansion is only a short interruption of a contraction. The most recent example of such a judgment that was less than obvious was in , when the Committee determined that the contraction that began in was not a continuation of the one that began in , but rather a separate full recession.

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FAQs Frequently asked Questions and additional information on how the NBERs Business Cycle Dating Committee chooses turning points in the Economy

The NBERs Business Cycle Dating Committee maintains a chronology of the U.S. business cycle. The chronology comprises alternating dates of peaks and troughs in economic activity. A recession is a period between a peak and a trough, and an expansion is a period between a trough and a peak. During a recession, a significant decline in economic activity spreads across the economy and can last from a few months to more than a year. Similarly, during an expansion, economic activity rises substantially, spreads across the economy, and usually lasts for several years.

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Conference on Econometrics and Mathematical Economicsdefinition of businessThe NBERs Business Cycle Dating Committee