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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Recession: Downturning the balance sheets
recession, n, • two consecutive quarters of shrinking economic activity. Also comes in the guise of GDP contraction, falling output, and negative growth (cf. Newspeak).

EXAMPLE: The UK's manufacturing sector (20% of the national economy) cut production in January-March and April-June.

OTHER INDICATORS: stock market traders wake up feeling bearish rather than bullish, which is financial speak for swapping your red braces for a black armband.

USAGE: generally on the up, it seems. The New York Times used the word recession in 29 economics stories during July - up more than 250% on the July 2000.

In the UK, a study of The Times also shows a similar increase - with 22 mentions of the dreaded r-word in July's economics coverage, up from just nine in the same month last year.

CONTESTED: admittedly one of those Times stories was by respected economist Anatole Kaletsky, asserting that: "The recession that never was appears to be over before it started."

USING THE USAGE: The Economist (the newspaper, not Mr Kaletsky) reckons totting up how many times the r-word appears in print is a better barometer than consulting slow-to-compile GDP figures.

Strangely, the NY Times' "R-count" stood at a whacking 79 in January 2001, but has dropped without the global economy looking much rosier.

"A conspiracy theorist might suggest that newspaper editors, worried about dwindling advertising revenues, have banned the R-word," says The Economist.

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH: a depression. "It's a recession when your neighbour loses his job, it's a depression when you lose yours." US President Harry S. Truman.

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See also:

06 Aug 01 | Business
UK manufacturing in recession
07 Aug 01 | Business
Surprise surge in US productivity

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