Economic booms and busts since the Great Depression

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Economic hard times often draw comparisons to the Great Depression, but the pandemic-induced recession of 2020 may be the first to merit some amount of comparison — at least based on measures of GDP.

The economic downturn in 2020 — in its early stages — was the first to approach the degree of decline experienced during the 1930’s Depression or in 1946 when the U.S. economy de-militarized after World War II.

Since those periods, there have been eleven recessions. Until the pandemic, the worst post-WWII recession had been the -2.6% decline in 2009 during the global financial crisis.

In the end, 2020 was modestly worse than 2009. The full-year decline for 2020 was -3.4%. This represents a significant improvement from the start of the pandemic, when year-over year growth was down by a double-digit amount.

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