See also US Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions from the NBER to see when other recessions occurred and how long the lasted. It also shows how long each expansion lasted.
Excerpts from The WSJ article:
"The U.S. officially entered a recession in February, marking the end of the 128-month expansion that was the longest in records reaching back to 1854.
While Monday’s announcement by the National Bureau of Economic Research didn’t come as a surprise to economists, the group typically waits until a recession is well under way before declaring it has started.
But this time, the severity and breadth of the coronavirus-induced downturn prompted it to break with past practice, “even if it turns out to be briefer than earlier contractions,” the NBER’s Business Cycle Dating Committee said."
"February marked a sharp break in the country’s economic fortunes. The unemployment rate that month was just 3.5%, matching a half-century low.
In March and April, employers shed roughly 22 million jobs as social-distancing measures kept consumers away from stores, restaurants and sports stadiums and businesses shut down to avoid the spread of the virus. By April, the jobless rate hit 14.7%, a post-World War II high.
There are tentative signs that the economy may have hit bottom. Employers added 2.5 million jobs last month, the most in a single month on records dating from 1948, and the unemployment rate fell to 13.3%. The unexpectedly strong report helped fuel Monday’s stock-market gains.
Still, the jobless rate remains at one of the highest levels since the Great Depression, and employment is down by nearly 20 million jobs since February. By comparison, the U.S. shed about nine million jobs between December 2007 and February 2010, a period that encompassed the 18-month recession triggered by the financial crisis.
The NBER’s recession-dating committee looks at gauges of employment and production, as well as incomes minus government benefits, to determine when a recession has begun. It doesn’t use the rule of thumb common elsewhere in the world: two or more quarters of declining real gross domestic product.
The NBER considers February the peak of the business cycle, when the expansion ends and the recession begins. The month in which the economy reaches its trough and activity stops contracting marks both the end of the recession and the start of a new expansion. The committee doesn’t comment on how long the recession may last.
The economic outlook depends on a range of factors, including the trajectory of the virus, the potential for recurring outbreaks and future shutdowns and additional economic aid from Washington."