U.S. Pandemic Recession Lasted Just Two Months, Committee Report Says

The U.S.' pandemic recession lasted just two months and ended in April 2020, a committee report published Monday from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) said.

NBER's Business Cycle Dating Committee determined the recession's end as April 2020 because that is when it said jobs and output were the lowest for the economy. The committee said the economy began rebounding in May 2020 as the pandemic's recession is the shortest on record, the Associated Press reported.

"In determining that a trough occurred in April 2020, the committee did not conclude that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity," the committee's announcement said.

It noted that if another recession occurs, it would be separate and not associated with the most recent one. There are currently 6.8 million fewer jobs than there were before COVID-19 spread around the world.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

"Now Hiring" Signs in California
The pandemic recession in the U.S. only lasted two months, according to a new committee report. In this photo, "Now Hiring" signs are posted in front of a Home Depot store on July 07, 2021 in San Rafael, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The recession hit like a derailed train, was hugely destructive but short-lived.

NBER's committee of economists determines when recessions begin and end.

The U.S. economy reached a peak in February 2020, the Business Cycle Dating Committee said. The recession began the following month and ended in April.

The end of the recession does not mean the economy was fully recovered.

The recovery has continued in fits and starts for the past year and by some measures is nearly complete. The economy's output of goods and services likely reached its pre-pandemic level in the April-June quarter, analysts estimate.

On July 29, the government will release its first estimate of the economy's gross domestic product — the total output of goods and services — for the second quarter. That will confirm whether the economy as a whole has reached its pre-pandemic level.

The NBER's Business Cycle Dating Committee is made up of eight academic economists and is chaired by Stanford's Robert Hall. Other members include Robert Gordon from Northwestern University and Valerie Ramey from the University of California, San Diego.

While output has likely fully recovered, the unemployment rate remains elevated at 5.9 percent, compared with 3.5 percent before the downturn, which was a half-century low.

The fact that output has likely fully recovered while jobs have not will raise concerns that companies have figured out how to produce goods and services with fewer people. Businesses have stepped up their investments in machinery, computers, and software, which could enable them to automate some work.

Still, employers are also desperate to hire, and much of the jobs gap could be closed in the coming months. Employers added 850,000 jobs in June, the most in nearly a year, and many economists forecast hiring will remain at those levels in the coming months.

Employers slashed more than 22 million jobs in March and April of last year, the sharpest cuts since World War II. But hiring resumed in May.

Previously, the shortest recession lasted six months, from January through June in 1980.