A recession is when the GDP growth rate of a country is negative for two consecutive quarters or more. But a recession can be gauged even before the quarterly gross domestic product reports are out based on key economic indicators like manufacturing data, decline in incomes, employment levels etc.,
Although an economy can show signs of weakening months before a recession begins, the process of determining whether a country is in a true recession (or not) often takes time. A recession is short, but its impact can be long-lasting.
Understanding the sources of recessions has been one of the enduring areas of research in economics. There are a variety of reasons recessions occur. Some are associated with sharp changes in the prices, which lead to steep drop in spending by both the private and public sectors.
Some recessions, like the 2008 global financial meltdown, are rooted in financial market problems. Sharp increases in asset prices and a rapid expansion of credit often coincide with accumulation of debt. As corporations and households get over-extended and face difficulties in meeting their debt obligations, they reduce investment and consumption, which in turn leads to a decrease in economic activity. Not all such credit booms end up in recessions, but when they do, these recessions are often more costly than others. In some countries with strong export sectors, recessions can be the result of a decline in external demand. Adverse effects of recessions in large countries—such as Germany, Japan, and the United States—are rapidly felt by their regional trading partners, especially during globally synchronized recessions.
Some recessions are also a result of global shocks like the current coronavirus-triggered lockdowns, which shut down economic activity in many countries.
One of the consequences of recession is unemployment, which tends to increase, especially among the low-skilled workers, due to companies and even government agencies laying off staff as a way of curtailing expenses. Another result of recession is drop in output and business closures. Fall in output tends to last until weaker companies are driven out of the market, then output picks up again among the surviving firms. With more people out of work, and families increasingly unable to make ends meet, there will be demands for increased government-funded social schemes. With drop in government revenues during recession, it becomes difficult to meet the increased demands on the social sector.
The most popular, or most recommended, policy for any country to dig itself out of recession is expansionary fiscal policy, or fiscal stimulus. This can be usually a two-pronged approach – tax sops and increased government spending.