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The NBER defines an economic recession as: "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales." Almost universally, academics, economists, policy makers, and businesses defer to the determination by the NBER for the precise dating of a recession's onset and end.

In the United Kingdom, recessions are generally defined as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, as measured by the seasonal adjusted quarter-on-quarter figures for real GDP.

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Got banks back on their feet at essentially zero cost to the government. Toppled Moammar Gaddafi: In March 2011, joined a coalition of European and Arab governments in military action, including air power and naval blockade, against Gaddafi regime to defend Libyan civilians and support rebel troops. Told Mubarak to Go: On February 1, 2011, publicly called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to accept reform or step down, thus weakening the dictator’s position and putting America on the right side of the Arab Spring.

Gaddafi’s forty-two-year rule ended when the dictator was overthrown and killed by rebels on October 20, 2011. Mubarak ended thirty-year rule when overthrown on February 11. Reversed Bush Torture Policies: Two days after taking office, nullified Bush-era rulings that had allowed detainees in U. custody to undergo certain “enhanced” interrogation techniques considered inhumane under the Geneva Conventions.

The new law tightens capital requirements on large banks and other financial institutions, requires derivatives to be sold on clearinghouses and exchanges, mandates that large banks provide “living wills” to avoid chaotic bankruptcies, limits their ability to trade with customers’ money for their own profit, and creates the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (now headed by Richard Cordray) to crack down on abusive lending products and companies. Began Drawdown of War in Afghanistan: From a peak of 101,000 troops in June 2011, U. forces are now down to 91,000, with 23,000 slated to leave by the end of summer 2012. Since bottoming out in 2009, the auto industry has added more than 100,000 jobs.

According to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the combat mission there will be over by next year. Eliminated Osama bin laden: In 2011, ordered special forces raid of secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which the terrorist leader was killed and a trove of al-Qaeda documents was discovered. In 2011, the Big Three automakers all gained market share for the first time in two decades.

All these GM'ers had followed the Tahoe as it snaked down the line. Five men, including one in a Santa hat, stood in front of the shiny black SUV holding a wide banner, its white spaces crammed with workers' signatures. Television crews from as far away as the Netherlands and Japan had come to film this moment, when the oldest plant of the nation's largest automaker turned out its last.

"Last Vehicle off the Janesville Assembly Line," the banner said, with the date, Dec. Janesville lies three-fourths of the way from Chicago to Madison along Interstate 90.

Earlier in the month this paper expressed the hope that a needed transition in the American economy had begun, and others have gone further. Since then the American economy has seen a net deterioration in employment by about 900,000 workers.

The performance is by far the worst nine-month stretch following a recession of any post-war downturn (see chart).

A recession has many attributes that can occur simultaneously and includes declines in component measures of economic activity (GDP) such as consumption, investment, government spending, and net export activity.

These summary measures reflect underlying drivers such as employment levels and skills, household savings rates, corporate investment decisions, interest rates, demographics, and government policies. Koo wrote that under ideal conditions, a country's economy should have the household sector as net savers and the corporate sector as net borrowers, with the government budget nearly balanced and net exports near zero.

By the end of the current quarter the American economy may have returned to its pre-recession peak in real GDP. Prominent voices like Northwestern University's Robert Gordon, Harvard's Jeffrey Frankel, and Stanford's Robert Hall have declared the recession dead and gone.