Late-2000s recession

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This article is about economic recession during the early twenty-first century. For background financial market events dating from 2007, see Late-2000s financial crisis.

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Late-2000s recession around the world


World map showing real GDP growth rates for 2009. (Countries in brown are in recession.)

The late-2000s recession, sometimes referred to as the Great Recession,[1] the Lesser Depression,[2] or the Long Recession,[3] was a severe global economic problem that began in December 2007 and took a particularly sharp downward turn in September 2008. The Great Recession has affected the entire world economy, with higher detriment in some countries than others. It is a major global recession characterized by various systemic imbalances and was sparked by the outbreak of the late-2000s financial crisis.

There are two senses of the word "recession": a less precise sense, referring broadly to "a period of reduced economic activity",[4] and the academic sense used most often in economics, which is defined operationally, referring specifically to the contraction phase of a business cycle, with two or more consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. By the economics-academic definition of the word "recession", the Great Recession ended in the U.S. in June or July 2009.[5][6] However, in the broader, layperson sense of the word, many people use the term to refer to the ongoing hardship (in the same way that the term "Great Depression" is also popularly used).[7] In the U.S., for example, persistent high unemployment remains, along with low consumer confidence, the continuing decline in home values and increase in foreclosures and personal bankruptcies, an escalating federal debt crisis, inflation, and rising gas and food prices. In fact, a 2011 poll found that more than half of all Americans think the U.S. is still in recession or even depression, despite official data that shows a historically modest recovery.[8]

Overview

According to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research (the official arbiter of U.S. recessions) the recession began in December 2007.[9] US mortgage-backed securities, which had risks that were hard to assess, were marketed around the world. A more broad based credit boom fed a global speculative bubble in real estate and equities, which served to reinforce the risky lending practices.[10][11] The precarious financial situation was made more difficult by a sharp increase in oil and food prices. The emergence of Sub-prime loan losses in 2007 began the crisis and exposed other risky loans and over-inflated asset prices. With loan losses mounting and the fall of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, a major panic broke out on the inter-bank loan market. As share and housing prices declined, many large and well established investment and commercial banks in the United States and Europe suffered huge losses and even faced bankruptcy, resulting in massive public financial assistance.

A global recession has resulted in a sharp drop in international trade, rising unemployment and slumping commodity prices. In December 2008, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) declared that the United States had been in recession since December 2007.[12] Several economists have predicted that recovery may not appear until 2011 and that the recession will be the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.[13][14] Paul Krugman, who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, once commented on this as seemingly the beginning of "a second Great Depression."[15] The conditions leading up to the crisis, characterized by an exorbitant rise in asset prices and associated boom in economic demand, are considered a result of the extended period of easily available credit [16] and inadequate regulation and oversight.[17]

The recession has renewed interest in Keynesian economic ideas on how to combat recessionary conditions. Fiscal and monetary policies have been significantly eased to stem the recession and financial risks. Economists advise that the stimulus should be withdrawn as soon as the economies recover enough to "chart a path to sustainable growth".[18][19][20]

Pre-recession economic imbalances

The onset of the economic crisis took most people by surprise. A 2009 paper identifies twelve economists and commentators who, between 2000 and 2006, predicted a recession based on the collapse of the then-booming housing market in the U.S:[21] Dean Baker, Wynne Godley, Fred Harrison, Michael Hudson, Eric Janszen, Steve Keen, Jakob Brøchner Madsen & Jens Kjaer Sørensen, Kurt Richebächer, Nouriel Roubini, Peter Schiff and Robert Shiller.[21]

A number of economic imbalances preceded the financial crisis:

Commodity boom

Brent barrel petroleum spot prices since May 1987.

The decade of the 2000s saw a global explosion in prices, focused especially in commodities and housing, marking an end to the commodities recession of 1980–2000. In 2008, the prices of many commodities, notably oil and food, rose so high as to cause genuine economic damage, threatening stagflation and a reversal of globalization.[22]

In January 2008, oil prices surpassed $100 a barrel for the first time, the first of many price milestones to be passed in the course of the year.[23] In July 2008, oil peaked at $147.30[24] a barrel and a gallon of gasoline was more than $4 across most of the U.S.A. The economic contraction in the fourth quarter of 2008 caused a dramatic drop in demand and prices fell below $35 a barrel at the end of the year.[24] The high of 2008 may have been part of broader pattern of spiking instability in the price of oil over the preceding decade [25] This pattern of spiking instability in oil price may be a product of Peak Oil. There is concern that if the economy was to improve, oil prices might return to pre-recession levels.[26]

The food and fuel crises were both discussed at the 34th G8 summit in July 2008.[27]

Sulfuric acid (an important chemical commodity used in processes such as steel processing, copper production and bioethanol production) increased in price 3.5-fold in less than 1 year while producers of sodium hydroxide have declared force majeure due to flooding, precipitating similarly steep price increases.[28][29]

In the second half of 2008, the prices of most commodities fell dramatically on expectations of diminished demand in a world recession.[30]

Housing bubble

UK house prices between 1975 and 2010.

By 2007, real estate bubbles were still under way in many parts of the world,[31] especially in the United States,[32] United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, France, Poland,[33] South Africa, Israel, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia,[34] Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Finland, Argentina,[35] Baltic states, India, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and China.[36] U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in mid-2005 that "at a minimum, there's a little 'froth' (in the U.S. housing market) ... it's hard not to see that there are a lot of local bubbles".[37] The Economist magazine, writing at the same time, went further, saying "the worldwide rise in house prices is the biggest bubble in history".[38] Real estate bubbles are (by definition of the word "bubble") followed by a price decrease (also known as a housing price crash) that can result in many owners holding negative equity (a mortgage debt higher than the current value of the property).

Inflation

In February 2008, Reuters reported that global inflation was at historic levels, and that domestic inflation was at 10–20 year highs for many nations.[39] "Excess money supply around the globe, monetary easing by the Fed to tame financial crisis, growth surge supported by easy monetary policy in Asia, speculation in commodities, agricultural failure, rising cost of imports from China and rising demand of food and commodities in the fast growing emerging markets," have been named as possible reasons for the inflation.[40]

In mid-2007, International Monetary Fund (IMF) data indicated that inflation was highest in the oil-exporting countries, largely due to the unsterilized growth of foreign exchange reserves, the term "unsterilized" referring to a lack of monetary policy operations that could offset such a foreign exchange intervention in order to maintain a country's monetary policy target. However, inflation was also growing in countries classified by the IMF as "non-oil-exporting LDCs" (Least Developed Countries) and "Developing Asia", on account of the rise in oil and food prices.[41]

Inflation was also increasing in the developed countries,[42][43] but remained low compared to the developing world.

Causes

The great asset bubble:[44]
  1. Central banks' gold reserves – $0.845 tn.
  2. M0 (paper money) – - $3.9 tn.
  3. traditional (fractional reserve) banking assets – $39 tn.
  4. shadow banking assets – $62 tn.
  5. other assets – $290 tn.
  6. Bail-out money (early 2009) – $1.9 tn.

Debate over origins

The central debate about the origin has been focused on the respective parts played by the public monetary policy (in the US notably) and by private financial institutions practices. In the U.S., mortgage funding was unusually decentralized, opaque, and competitive, and it is believed that competition between lenders for revenue and market share contributed to declining underwriting standards and risky lending.[32]

On October 15, 2008, Anthony Faiola, Ellen Nakashima, and Jill Drew wrote a lengthy article in The Washington Post titled, "What Went Wrong".[45] In their investigation, the authors claim that former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt vehemently opposed any regulation of financial instruments known as derivatives. They further claim that Greenspan actively sought to undermine the office of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, specifically under the leadership of Brooksley E. Born, when the Commission sought to initiate regulation of derivatives. Ultimately, it was the collapse of a specific kind of derivative, the mortgage-backed security, that triggered the economic crisis of 2008.

While Greenspan's role as Chairman of the Federal Reserve has been widely discussed (the main point of controversy remains the lowering of Federal funds rate at only 1% for more than a year which, according to the Austrian School of economics, allowed huge amounts of "easy" credit-based money to be injected into the financial system and thus create an unsustainable economic boom)[46] there is also the argument that Greenspan's actions in the years 2002–2004 were actually motivated by the need to take the U.S. economy out of the early 2000s recession caused by the bursting of the dot-com bubble — although by doing so he did not help avert the crisis, but only postpone it.[47][48]

Some economists - those of the Austrian school and those predicting the recession such as Steve Keen - claim that the ultimate point of origin of the great financial crisis of 2007–2010 can be traced back to an extremely indebted US economy. The collapse of the real estate market in 2006 was the close point of origin of the crisis. The failure rates of subprime mortgages were the first symptom of a credit boom turned to bust and of a real estate shock. But large default rates on subprime mortgages cannot account for the severity of the crisis. Rather, low-quality mortgages acted as an accelerant to the fire that spread through the entire financial system. The latter had become fragile as a result of several factors that are unique to this crisis: the transfer of assets from the balance sheets of banks to the markets, the creation of complex and opaque assets, the failure of ratings agencies to properly assess the risk of such assets, and the application of fair value accounting. To these novel factors, one must add the now standard failure of regulators and supervisors in spotting and correcting the emerging weaknesses.[49]

Robert Reich claims the amount of debt in the US economy can be traced to economic inequality, assuming that middle class wages remained stagnant while wealth concentrated at the top, and households "pull equity from their homes and overload on debt to maintain living standards."[50]

Inflation adjusted median household income in the US peaked in 1999 at $53,252 (at the peak of the internet stock bubble), dropped to $51,174 in 2004, went up to 52,823 in 2007 (at the peak of the housing bubble), and has since trended downward to $49,445 in 2010. The last time median household income was at this level was in 1996 at $49,112 indicating that the recession of the early 2000's and the Great Recession have wiped out all middle class income gains for the last 15 years. [51] This income drop has caused a dramatic rise in people living under the poverty level and has hit suburbia particularly hard. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of suburban households below the poverty line increased by 53 percent, compared to a 23 percent increase in poor households in urban areas.[52]

Effects

Overview

International trade, 2000-2010. 2000=100.[53] A plunge in the volumes of exchanges can be seen as of the second half of 2008.
The late-2000s recession is shaping up to be the worst post-World War II contraction on record:[54]
  • Real gross domestic product (GDP) began contracting in the third quarter of 2008, and by early 2009 was falling at an annualized pace not seen since the 1950s.[55]
  • Capital investment, which was in decline year-on-year since the final quarter of 2006, matched the 1957–58 post war record in the first quarter of 2009. The pace of collapse in residential investment picked up speed in the first quarter of 2009, dropping 23.2% year-on-year, nearly four percentage points faster than in the previous quarter.
  • US Domestic demand, in decline for five straight quarters, is still three months shy of the 1974–75 record, but the pace – down 2.6% per quarter vs. 1.9% in the earlier period – is a record-breaker already.
  • A report in 2009 by Bloomberg states that $14.5 trillion of value of global companies has been erased since the crisis began.[56]
  • Despite such problems, per-capita GDP and median incomes remained relatively high by historical standards, with per-capita GDP in 2010 exceeding per-capita GDP of 2000. Unemployment also never reached the levels of the early 1980s recession. The recession was only historical in the sense of its contraction from recent unprecedented high points in national income and economic activity, not by comparison to most historical periods, including most of the past six decades.

Political instability related to the economic crisis

Beginning February 26, 2009 an Economic Intelligence Briefing was added to the daily intelligence briefings prepared for the President of the United States. This addition reflects the assessment of United States intelligence agencies that the global financial crisis presents a serious threat to international stability.[57]

Business Week in March 2009 stated that global political instability is rising fast due to the global financial crisis and is creating new challenges that need managing.[58] The Associated Press reported in March 2009 that: United States "Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has said the economic weakness could lead to political instability in many developing nations."[59] Even some developed countries are seeing political instability.[60] NPR reports that David Gordon, a former intelligence officer who now leads research at the Eurasia Group, said: "Many, if not most, of the big countries out there have room to accommodate economic downturns without having large-scale political instability if we're in a recession of normal length. If you're in a much longer-run downturn, then all bets are off."[61]

Globally, mass protest movements have arisen in many countries as a response to the economic crisis. Additionally, in some countries, riots and even open revolts have occurred in relation to the economic crisis.

For example, the Arab Spring revolts taking place in the Arab world since December 18, 2010 were ostensibly sparked by the self-immolation of an unemployed Tunisian man named Mohamed Bouazizi who was prevented from even selling produce from a cart. This act, combined with general discontentment about high unemployment, food inflation, corruption,[62] lack of freedom of speech and other forms of political freedom,[63] and poor living conditions led to the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in Tunisia in three decades,[64][65] resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, and an eventual regime change in Tunisia. To date, there have been revolutions in Tunisia[66] and Egypt;[67] a civil war in Libya;[68] civil uprisings in Bahrain,[69] Syria,[70] and Yemen;[71] major protests in Algeria,[72] Iraq,[73] Jordan,[74] Morocco,[75] and Oman,[76] as well as on the borders of Israel;[77] and minor protests in Kuwait,[78] Lebanon,[79] Mauritania,[80] Saudi Arabia,[81] Sudan,[82] and Western Sahara.[83]

In January 2009 the government leaders of Iceland were forced to call elections two years early after the people of Iceland staged mass protests and clashed with the police due to the government's handling of the economy. Hundreds of thousands protested in France against President Sarkozy's economic policies. Prompted by the financial crisis in Latvia, the opposition and trade unions there organized a rally against the cabinet of premier Ivars Godmanis. The rally gathered some 10-20 thousand people. In the evening the rally turned into a Riot. The crowd moved to the building of the parliament and attempted to force their way into it, but were repelled by the state's police. In late February many Greeks took part in a massive general strike because of the economic situation and they shut down schools, airports, and many other services in Greece. Police and protesters clashed in Lithuania where people protesting the economic conditions were shot by rubber bullets. In addition to various levels of unrest in Europe, Asian countries have also seen various degrees of protest. Communists and others rallied in Moscow to protest the Russian government's economic plans. Protests have also occurred in China as demands from the west for exports have been dramatically reduced and unemployment has increased. Beyond these initial protests, the protest movement has grown and continued in 2011.

Policy responses

The financial phase of the crisis led to emergency interventions in many national financial systems. As the crisis developed into genuine recession in many major economies, economic stimulus meant to revive economic growth became the most common policy tool. After having implemented rescue plans for the banking system, major developed and emerging countries announced plans to relieve their economies. In particular, economic stimulus plans were announced in China, the United States, and the European Union.[84] Bailouts of failing or threatened businesses were carried out or discussed in the USA, the EU, and India.[85] In the final quarter of 2008, the financial crisis saw the G-20 group of major economies assume a new significance as a focus of economic and financial crisis management.

IMF recommendation

The IMF stated in September 2010 that the financial crisis would not end without a major decrease in unemployment as hundreds of millions of people were unemployed worldwide. The IMF urged governments to expand social safety nets and to generate job creation even as they are under pressure to cut spending. Governments should also invest in skills training for the unemployed and even governments of countries like Greece with major debt risk should first focus on long-term economic recovery by creating jobs.[86]

United States policy responses

The Federal Reserve, Treasury, and Securities and Exchange Commission took several steps on September 19 to intervene in the crisis. To stop the potential run on money market mutual funds, the Treasury also announced on September 19 a new $50 billion program to insure the investments, similar to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) program.[87][88] Part of the announcements included temporary exceptions to section 23A and 23B (Regulation W), allowing financial groups to more easily share funds within their group. The exceptions would expire on January 30, 2009, unless extended by the Federal Reserve Board.[89] The Securities and Exchange Commission announced termination of short-selling of 799 financial stocks, as well as action against naked short selling, as part of its reaction to the mortgage crisis.[90]

Asia-Pacific policy responses

On September 15, 2008 China cut its interest rate for the first time since 2002. Indonesia reduced its overnight repo rate, at which commercial banks can borrow overnight funds from the central bank, by two percentage points to 10.25 percent. The Reserve Bank of Australia injected nearly $1.5 billion into the banking system, nearly three times as much as the market's estimated requirement. The Reserve Bank of India added almost $1.32 billion, through a refinance operation, its biggest in at least a month.[91] On November 9, 2008 the 2008 Chinese economic stimulus plan is a RMB¥ 4 trillion ($586 billion) stimulus package announced by the central government of the People's Republic of China in its biggest move to stop the global financial crisis from hitting the world's second largest economy. A statement on the government's website said the State Council had approved a plan to invest 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) in infrastructure and social welfare by the end of 2010. The stimulus package will be invested in key areas such as housing, rural infrastructure, transportation, health and education, environment, industry, disaster rebuilding, income-building, tax cuts, and finance.

China's export driven economy is starting to feel the impact of the economic slowdown in the United States and Europe, and the government has already cut key interest rates three times in less than two months in a bid to spur economic expansion. On November 28, 2008, the Ministry of Finance of the People's Republic of China and the State Administration of Taxation jointly announced a rise in export tax rebate rates on some labor-intensive goods. These additional tax rebates will take place on December 1, 2008.[92]

The stimulus package was welcomed by world leaders and analysts as larger than expected and a sign that by boosting its own economy, China is helping to stabilize the global economy. News of the announcement of the stimulus package sent markets up across the world. However, Marc Faber January 16 said that China according to him was in recession.

In Taiwan, the central bank on September 16, 2008 said it would cut its required reserve ratios for the first time in eight years. The central bank added $3.59 billion into the foreign-currency interbank market the same day. Bank of Japan pumped $29.3 billion into the financial system on September 17, 2008 and the Reserve Bank of Australia added $3.45 billion the same day.[93]

In developing and emerging economies, responses to the global crisis mainly consisted in low-rates monetary policy (Asia and the Middle East mainly) coupled with the depreciation of the currency against the dollar. There were also stimulus plans in some Asian countries, in the Middle East and in Argentina. In Asia, plans generally amounted to 1 to 3% of GDP, with the notable exception of China, which announced a plan accounting for 16% of GDP (6% of GDP per year).

European policy responses

Until September 2008, European policy measures were limited to a small number of countries (Spain and Italy). In both countries, the measures were dedicated to households (tax rebates) reform of the taxation system to support specific sectors such as housing. The European Commission proposed a €200 billion stimulus plan to be implemented at the European level by the countries. At the beginning of 2009, the UK and Spain completed their initial plans, while Germany announced a new plan.

On September 29, 2008 the Belgian, Luxembourg and Dutch authorities partially nationalized Fortis. The German government bailed out Hypo Real Estate.

On 8 October 2008 the British Government announced a bank rescue package of around £500 billion[94] ($850 billion at the time). The plan comprises three parts. The first £200 billion would be made in regard to the banks in liquidity stack. The second part will consist of the state government increasing the capital market within the banks. Along with this, £50 billion will be made available if the banks needed it, finally the government will write away any eligible lending between the British banks with a limit to £250 billion.

In early December German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück indicated a lack of belief in a "Great Rescue Plan" and reluctance to spend more money addressing the crisis.[95] In March 2009, The European Union Presidency confirmed that the EU was at the time strongly resisting the US pressure to increase European budget deficits.[96]

Global responses

Responses by the UK and US in proportion to their GDPs

Most political responses to the economic and financial crisis has been taken, as seen above, by individual nations. Some coordination took place at the European level, but the need to cooperate at the global level has led leaders to activate the G-20 major economies entity. A first summit dedicated to the crisis took place, at the Heads of state level in November 2008 (2008 G-20 Washington summit).

The G-20 countries met in a summit held on November 2008 in Washington to address the economic crisis. Apart from proposals on international financial regulation, they pledged to take measures to support their economy and to coordinate them, and refused any resort to protectionism.

Another G-20 summit was held in London on April 2009. Finance ministers and central banks leaders of the G-20 met in Horsham on March to prepare the summit, and pledged to restore global growth as soon as possible. They decided to coordinate their actions and to stimulate demand and employment. They also pledged to fight against all forms of protectionism and to maintain trade and foreign investments. They also committed to maintain the supply of credit by providing more liquidity and recapitalizing the banking system, and to implement rapidly the stimulus plans. As for central bankers, they pledged to maintain low-rates policies as long as necessary. Finally, the leaders decided to help emerging and developing countries, through a strengthening of the IMF.

Countries maintaining growth or technically avoiding recession

Poland is the only member of the European Union to have avoided a decline in GDP, meaning that in 2009 Poland has created the most GDP growth in the EU. As of December 2009 the Polish economy had not entered recession nor even contracted, while its IMF 2010 GDP growth forecast of 1.9 per cent is expected to be upgraded.[97][98][99] Analysts have identified several causes: Extremely low levels of bank lending and a relatively very small mortgage market; the relatively recent dismantling of EU trade barriers and the resulting surge in demand for Polish goods since 2004; the receipt of direct EU funding since 2004; lack of over-dependence on a single export sector; a tradition of government fiscal responsibility; a relatively large internal market; the free-floating Polish zloty; low labour costs attracting continued foreign direct investment; economic difficulties at the start of the decade which prompted austerity measures in advance of the world crisis.

While China, India and Iran have experienced slowing growth, they have not entered recession.

South Korea narrowly avoided technical recession in the first quarter of 2009.[100] The International Energy Agency stated in mid September that South Korea could be the only large OECD country to avoid recession for the whole of 2009.[101] It was the only developed economy to expand in the first half of 2009. On October 6, Australia became the first G20 country to raise its main interest rate, with the Reserve Bank of Australia deciding to move rates up to 3.25% from 3.00%.[102]

Australia has avoided a technical recession after experiencing only one quarter of negative growth in the fourth quarter of 2008, with GDP returning to positive in the first quarter of 2009.[103][104]

Raising interest rates

The Bank of Israel was the first to raise interest rates after the global recession began.[105] It increased rates in August 2009.[105]

Followed by Norges Bank of Norway, the Reserve Bank of Australia in March 2010[106] and the Reserve Bank of India on 18 March 2010.[106]

Countries in economic recession or depression

Many countries experienced recession in 2008.[107] The countries/territories currently in a technical recession are Estonia, Latvia, Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Italy, Russia and Germany.

Denmark went into recession in the first quarter of 2008, but came out again in the second quarter.[108] Iceland fell into an economic depression in 2008 following the collapse of its banking system. (see 2008–2011 Icelandic financial crisis)

The following countries went into recession in the second quarter of 2008: Estonia,[109] Latvia,[110] Ireland[111] and New Zealand.[112]

The following countries/territories went into recession in the third quarter of 2008: Japan,[113] Sweden,[114] Hong Kong,[115] Singapore,[116] Italy,[117] Turkey[107] and Germany.[118] As a whole the fifteen nations in the European Union that use the euro went into recession in the third quarter,[119] and the United Kingdom. In addition, the European Union, the G7, and the OECD all experienced negative growth in the third quarter.[107]

The following countries/territories went into technical recession in the fourth quarter of 2008: United States, Switzerland,[120] Spain,[121] and Taiwan.[122]

South Korea "miraculously" avoided recession with GDP returning positive at a 0.1% expansion in the first quarter of 2009.[123]

Of the seven largest economies in the world by GDP, only China and France avoided a recession in 2008. France experienced a 0.3% contraction in Q2 and 0.1% growth in Q3 of 2008. In the year to the third quarter of 2008 China grew by 9%. Until recently Chinese officials considered 8% GDP growth to be required simply to create enough jobs for rural people moving to urban centres.[124] This figure may more accurately be considered to be 5–7% now that the main growth in working population is receding. Growth of between 5%–8% could well have the type of effect in China that a recession has elsewhere. Ukraine went into technical depression in January 2009 with a nominal annualized GDP growth of −20%.[125]

The recession in Japan intensified in the fourth quarter of 2008 with a nominal annualized GDP growth of −12.7%,[126] and deepened further in the first quarter of 2009 with a nominal annualized GDP growth of −15.2%.[127]

Official forecasts

On March 2009, U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in an interview that he felt that if banks began lending more freely, allowing the financial markets to return to normal, the recession could end during 2009.[6][128] In that same interview, Bernanke said Green shoots of economic revival are already evident.[129] On February 18, 2009, the US Federal Reserve cut their economic forecast of 2009, expecting the US output to shrink between 0.5% and 1.5%, down from its forecast in October 2008 of output between +1.1% (growth) and −0.2% (contraction).[130]

The EU commission in Brussels updated their earlier predictions on January 19, 2009, expecting Germany to contract −2.25% and −1.8% on average for the 27 EU countries.[131] According to new forecasts by Deutsche Bank (end of November 2008), the economy of Germany will contract by more than 4% in 2009.[132]

On November 3, 2008, according to all newspapers, the European Commission in Brussels predicted for 2009 only an extremely low increase by 0.1% of the GDP, for the countries of the Euro zone (France, Germany, Italy, etc.).[133] They also predicted negative numbers for the UK (−1.0%), Ireland, Spain, and other countries of the EU. Three days later, the IMF at Washington, D.C., predicted for 2009 a worldwide decrease, −0.3%, of the same number, on average over the developed economies (−0.7% for the US, and −0.8% for Germany).[134] On April 22, 2009, the German ministers of finance and that of economy, in a common press conference, corrected again their numbers for 2009 downwards: this time the "prognosis" for Germany was a decrease of the GDP of at least −5%,[135] in agreement with a recent prediction of the IMF.[136]

On June 11, 2009, the World Bank Group predicted for 2009 for the first time a global contraction of the economic power, precisely by −3%.[137]

Comparisons with the Great Depression

On April 17, 2009, head of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that there was a chance that certain countries may not implement the proper policies to avoid feedback mechanisms that could eventually turn the recession into a depression. "The free-fall in the global economy may be starting to abate, with a recovery emerging in 2010, but this depends crucially on the right policies being adopted today." The IMF pointed out that unlike the Great Depression, this recession was synchronized by global integration of markets. Such synchronized recessions were explained to last longer than typical economic downturns and have slower recoveries.[138]

The chief economist of the IMF, Dr. Olivier Blanchard, stated that the percentage of workers laid off for long stints has been rising with each downturn for decades but the figures have surged this time. "Long-term unemployment is alarmingly high: in the US, half the unemployed have been out of work for over six months, something we have not seen since the Great Depression." The IMF also stated that a link between rising inequality within Western economies and deflating demand may exist. The last time that the wealth gap reached such skewed extremes was in 1928-1929.[139]

Job losses and unemployment rates

Many jobs have been lost worldwide following the onset of a recession in 2007.

So far, the job losses have been demonstrably less than during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when US unemployment peaked at 25% of the labour force.[140] The United States entered into recession in December 2007[141] when job losses began. Unemployment increased drastically starting in September 2008 following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.[142] In March 2009, U-3 unemployment had risen to 8.5%.[143] In March 2009, statistician[144] John Williams argued that "measurement changes implemented over the years make it impossible to compare the current unemployment rate with that seen during the Great Depression".[144] By December 2010, the official U.S. unemployment rate had increased to 9.8%. Even at the peak of the recession, the unemployment rate never reached levels of the early 1980s recession. As of January 2012, the unemployment rate is 8.3%.

Mass unemployment has also affected the United Kingdom since the recession began. In late 2007, unemployment stood at around 1.6million.[145]However, by early 2009 that figure had increased to more than 2 million and a year later it rose past the 2.5million mark. The peak in unemployment, however, came some two years after the recession, in December 2011, with close to 2.7million unemployed, accounting for 8.4% - marginally higher than the unemployment rate in the United States.[146]

Risk of second recession

In his article “On the Possibilities to Forecast the Current Crisis and its Second Wave” (with Askar Akaev and Andrey Korotayev) in the Russian academic journal “Ekonomicheskaya politika” (December 2010. Issue 6. Pages 39-46[6]) the Rector of the Moscow State University Viktor Sadovnichiy published «a forecast of the second wave of the crisis, which suggests that it may start in July — August, 2011».[147] A September 14, 2011 Reuters Poll indicated that economists thought the probability of another recession was at 31%, up from 25% the month before.[148] Since the US economy has not fully recovered from the last recession, any resumption would be considerably more painful. [149]

See also

References

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Further reading

External links

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