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Though the economy has occasionally sputtered in 2022, it has certainly been resilient — and according to a traditional definition, the U.S. is not currently in a recession.
The conventional benchmark has been that two consecutive quarters of a generally slowing economy defines a recession. (See recession vs. depression.)
That definition was achieved as the first six months revealed an economic decline. In the first quarter, the economy shrank 1.6%, then improved, though still fell 0.6% in the second quarter, due to lower inventory spending, housing investments and federal and state government spending.
However, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency embedded in the U.S. Department of Commerce, reported that as of the end of the third quarter of 2022, the economy reversed direction and actually grew at an annual rate of 2.6%.
The Fed is pushing to slow the economy
The Federal Reserve, after issuing multiple interest rate increases this year — with continuing hikes expected through early 2023 — is not trying to trigger a recession, but does want to slow the economy.
Lowering consumer demand is the tricky elixir intended to reverse the higher prices we face with inflation. The risk of a recession is always a possible side effect.
How long do recessions last?
Historically, recessions have lasted anywhere from two months to several years, according to the NBER. But our current economic climate presents unique circumstances that make it difficult to draw a direct comparison with past events.
The lingering effects of the pandemic, particularly in matters of inventory and supply chain disruptions, are major wild cards. Unemployment is still low, but we hear more talk of layoffs and business expense cutting each week. The war in Ukraine is another concern.
Economic cycles are impossible to predict, so it's best to be financially prepared.
Getting ready for a recession
There are a few ways to deal with current economic challenges and prepare for future ones. Starting or beefing up an emergency fund can help you face financial setbacks without going into debt.