Eric Swanson

You might have heard that a recession is when the financial system contracts for two consecutive quarters, as reflected in gross domestic product (GDP) — the broadest scorecard of the U.S. economy. Experts, however, say that oversimplifies it. “That’s the rule of thumb that’s often been used,” says Eric Swanson, economics professor at the University of California, Irvine, who spent 10 years at the Fed. “But the last couple of recessions, it’s not quite been true.”

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