The National Bureau of Economic Research, the date-keeper for U.S. business cycles, has declared February 2020 as the official end of the U.S. economic expansion and beginning of the current recession.
“The expansion lasted 128 months, the longest in the history of U.S. business cycles dating back to 1854,” according to the NBER. The previous record was 120 months, running from March 1991 to March 2001.
The NBER noted that February 2020 marked the peak for payrolls and the low in the national unemployment rate as well as the peak in monthly real personal spending, “the most comprehensive monthly measure of aggregate expenditures,” and in aggregate real income. The latter two contribute to quarterly GDP reports.
At the same time the NBER acknowledged problems with the jobs data occurring during the early months of COVID-19 pandemic. The payroll data, based on a large survey of employers, for example, overcounted workers “due to special circumstances associated with the pandemic of early 2020.” Individuals on paid furlough were counted as employed even though they weren’t working, according to the NBER.