Chapter 5. Global Recessions: Sad Stories of Collapse
- Ayhan Kose, and Marco Terrones
- Published Date:
- December 2015
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development… sharply cut its forecast for the world economy, warning that failure to end the euro crisis and avert a fiscal impasse in the United States could cause a global recession.
Stephen Castle (2012)
The global economy experiences a recession every six years or so, and the frequency of global recessions tends to increase when global indebtedness is high. Given that the last global recession was four years ago, and also given that the global economy is significantly more indebted today than it was four years ago, we believe there is now a greater than 60 percent probability that we will experience another global recession in the next three to five years.
Saumil H. Parikh (2013)
The 2009 global recession clearly showed that our knowledge of the main features of such episodes is quite limited. How do activity variables behave during a global recession? What happens to credit and asset prices? What are the main differences and similarities among the four global recessions? This chapter answers these questions. We document the main regularities of global recessions and then outline the specific features of the 2009 global recession. In addition to the four global recessions, we analyze the two global downturns during which the world economy slowed significantly but was able to escape falling into an outright recession.
Global Recessions: Main Similarities
There are surprising similarities in how the world economy experienced a period of collapse during each of the four global recessions. The evolution of the main indicators of world activity point to these similarities (Figure 5.1 and Table 5.1A). For example, world output, industrial production, trade, capital flows, and oil consumption often started to slow a year before the peak of each global cycle. The unemployment rate increased most sharply in the year of recession as growth collapsed. Asset prices and credit typically began decelerating about two years ahead of the global recessions. Inflation and nominal interest rates fell during the year of the global recession (Figure 5.2 and Table 5.1B). The latest global recession followed a similar pattern, although most indicators contracted much more sharply.
Output, industrial production, trade, capital flows, asset prices, and oil consumption slow two years before a global recession. Employment, inflation, and interest rates fall during the recession’s first year.
Figure 5.1Global Recessions: Activity Variables
Note: Time 0 denotes the year of the respective global recession (shaded with gray). All variables are in annual frequency. Aggregates for output are purchasing-power-parity-weighted per capita real output indices. Aggregates for industrial production are purchasing-power-parity-weighted industrial production of advanced and emerging market economies. Aggregates for trade are trade-weighted total trade flow indices. Aggregates for unemployment rate are labor-force-weighted unemployment rates in percent. Output, industrial production, trade, and oil consumption are index numbers equal to 100 one period before the global recession year.
|Variable||Average 1972–74||1975||Average 1979–81||1982||Average 1988–90||1991||Average 2006–08||2009||Average All Global Recessions||Average Non-Recession Years 1960–2012||Average Three Years Before Recession||Average 1960–2012|
|Total output (PW)||5.08||1.82||2.74||1.01||3.79||1.50||4.44||−0.57||0.94||4.07||4.01||3.83|
|Total output (MW)||4.62||1.54||2.59||0.74||3.81||1.13||3.27||−1.97||0.36||3.70||3.57||3.44|
|Output per capita (PW)||3.09||−0.07||1.01||−0.74||2.09||−0.14||3.26||−1.81||−0.69||2.43||2.36||2.19|
|Output per capita (MW)||2.62||−0.35||0.86||−1.02||2.11||−0.50||2.09||−3.22||−1.27||2.06||1.92||1.81|
|Capital flows over GDP||0.71||0.44||0.93||−2.06||0.10||−3.00||−3.77||−2.91||−1.88||0.29||−0.51||0.17|
|Unemployment (labor weighted)||0.13||1.58||−0.08||0.26||0.04||0.11||−0.28||0.79||0.68||−0.02||−0.05||0.08|
|Industrial production (PW)||5.41||−6.85||2.12||−2.21||3.54||0.81||1.78||−7.58||−3.96||3.99||3.21||3.36|
|Consumption per capita (PW)||2.74||0.74||1.23||−0.99||2.02||0.85||3.23||−0.24||0.09||2.33||2.30||2.16|
|Investment per capita (PW)||3.21||−1.57||0.34||−5.42||2.88||−1.41||4.46||−6.54||−3.74||3.30||2.72||2.76|
|Average 1972–74||1975||Average 1979–81||1982||Average 1988–90||1991||Average 2006–08||2009||Average All Global Recessions||Average Non-Recession Years 1960–2012||Average Three Years Before Recession||Average 1960–2012|
|Nominal short-term interest rates||1.25||−2.33||1.99||−1.36||0.64||−1.83||0.04||−2.14||−1.91||0.07||0.98||−0.08|
|Real short-terminterest rates||−1.17||−0.41||0.88||0.61||0.37||−0.56||−0.38||1.19||0.21||−0.02||−0.07||0.00|
|Gold prices||43.38||−10.15||26.83||−28.85||−20.37||−20.32||20.55||10.01||−12.33||2.53||17.59||1.58|Figure 5.2Global Recessions: Financial Variables, Interest Rates, and Inflation
Note: Time 0 denotes the year of the respective global recession (shaded with gray). All variables are in annual frequency. All variables are market weighted by gross domestic product in U.S. dollars. Credit, equity, and house price figures are for advanced and emerging market economies and are index numbers equal to 100 one period before the global recession year. Nominal and real short-term interest rates and inflation are only for advanced economies. Inflation is the change in the consumer price index.
The four global recessions display noticeable quantitative regularities in the behavior of the real economy (Tables 5.1A and 5.1B).
- Contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The decline in GDP per capita (purchasing-power-parity weighted) in a typical global recession is about 0.7 percent, which is 3 percentage points lower than average annual growth of the world economy (2.4 percent) during the years of expansion over 1960–2012.
- The deepest episode is 2009. The 2009 global recession was by far the deepest in five decades, and as such called the “Great Recession.”1 If total real GDP (rather than per capita) is used as the main metric of economic activity, 2009 was the global economy’s only contraction since 1960. There were sharper declines in almost all indicators in 1975 and 1982 than in 1991; in 1991, in fact, world trade grew strongly despite the recession. During the 1991 global recession, only one-third of the advanced economies in our sample experienced national recessions, whereas growth contracted in almost all advanced economies during the 2009 global recession. Chapter 6 analyzes the extent of synchronization of national recessions in more detail.
- Not much higher growth three years prior to global recessions. Growth does not appear to be higher before global recessions, with average growth over the three years prior to these episodes comparable with growth in other years. However, when one focuses on a five-year rolling-window average of world growth, it is possible to conclude that the global economy went through relatively more vibrant periods two to three years prior to the 1991 and 2009 episodes. In particular, growth in world output per capita picked up noticeably prior to those two global recessions (Figure 5.3).
- Broad decline in activity. Investment, industrial production, and trade often decline much more than output during global recessions. Although consumption on average holds up well (consumption per capita declined in 1982 and 2009, but continued to grow in the two other episodes), the growth of consumption is much smaller than during other years. Given that consumption is the most relevant variable for welfare, much lower consumption growth during global recessions is another indication of the substantial welfare losses associated with these episodes. There are significant declines in both oil consumption and prices during global recessions after noticeable increases in both before these episodes (except the 1991 episode, during which global oil consumption did not change much).
- Sharp rise in unemployment. Global unemployment picks up significantly during global recessions. The surge in unemployment was particularly severe during the 1975 and 2009 episodes.2
Figure 5.3Growth of World Output: Rolling Average
Note: Each line shows the five-year rolling-window average of the percent change from a year earlier. World output growth per capita is the difference between world real output growth and world population growth. World output growth is the weighted average of the growth rate of real output of each country (using the purchasing-power-parity or market weights). Shaded bars indicate global recessions.
What can explain the much larger contraction in activity during the 2009 global recession compared with previous recessions? In Chapters 6 and 7, we focus on the following factors: the highly synchronized nature of the 2009 global recession and national recessions and the fact that these occurred alongside a severe global financial crisis.
Financial markets tend to be depressed during global recessions (Figure 5.2). Although credit continues to expand, the average growth rate of credit is about one-fourth the annual average observed in nonrecession years (Table 5.1B). Both house and equity prices fall during a global recession. The average decline in equity prices is three times larger than the decline in house prices. When there is rapid credit growth prior to global recessions, house prices also tend to increase sharply.
Inflation and Interest Rates
Inflation falls as demand contracts rapidly (Figure 5.2). Nominal short-term rates also drop during global recessions as monetary policies become more accommodative. The behavior of short-term nominal rates during the 2009 global recession clearly shows its unique nature (as some countries quickly hit the zero lower bound). Although real short-term rates also tend to decline during the global recessions, there appears to be wide variation among the four episodes depending on the behavior of inflation and nominal interest rates. For example, real rates collapsed during the 1975 episode but went up during the 1982 recession. Policy rates (nominal short-term rates) increased in many advanced economies prior to the 1982 episode because of the reasons discussed in Chapter 3.
These results collectively indicate that the behavior of the main macroeconomic and financial variables during global recessions are comparable with those observed during national recessions. For example, much larger changes in investment, industrial production, and international trade relative to changes in output and relatively smooth patterns of consumption during global recessions are also observed during national recessions. The similarities across the four global recessions clearly show the value of studying these episodes.
The 2009 Global Recession: Collapse All Over
The sharp declines in a wide range of economic indicators point to the severity of the 2009 global recession. Investment per capita declined in all the global recessions, along with the massive fall in output, but the decline in the last recession easily exceeded that during previous episodes.
The collapse of global trade and capital flows during the 2009 global recession is particularly striking. Although the globalization of national manufacturing chains has been a major force driving the growth of world trade during the past two decades, the same process appeared to be instrumental in the sharp contraction of cross-border trade flows. The decline in global trade during this episode dwarfs the decline during previous episodes. Indeed, the collapse of global trade was one reason the recession evoked fears of another Great Depression and provoked protectionist measures by some governments seeking to shield domestic industries from foreign competition.3
A number of recent studies examine the sharp decline of trade relative to output during the 2009 global recession. In addition to the importance of the rise of global manufacturing chains, these studies advance other potential explanations, including the sharp fall in trade credit, the dramatic decline in durable goods trade, significant movements in inventories, and the large magnitude of cross-border spillovers associated with demand shocks.4
Global capital flows also fell more sharply during the 2009 global recession. After overshadowing the growth of global trade flows over the past two decades, global capital flows reached unprecedented levels in 2007. However, these flows dried up rapidly in the last quarter of 2008 as the global financial crisis spread from advanced economies to emerging market and developing economies. Global capital flows also declined substantially in 1982 and 1991, but much less so than during the 2009 global recession. Recent research shows that these declines are also associated with country-specific features, including openness to financial and trade flows, the nature of financial linkages with the rest of the world (for example, bank flows were associated with much larger declines), and domestic macroeconomic conditions.5
The rate of global unemployment was higher during the 2009 global recession than during other episodes. Specifically, the unemployment rate increased about 2.5 percentage points in advanced economies (Figure 5.4). The 2009 global recession led to a worldwide increase of 23 million in the number of people unemployed.6 We discuss this issue in detail in Chapter 5.
Figure 5.4Global Recessions: Selected Activity Variables by Country Group
Note: Time 0 denotes the year of the respective global recession (shaded with gray). All variables are in annual frequency. Aggregates for output are purchasing-power-parity-weighted per capita real output indices. Aggregates for trade are trade-weighted total trade flow indices. Aggregates for unemployment rate are labor-force-weighted unemployment rates in percent. Output and trade are index numbers equal to 100 one period before the global recession year.
All the financial variables we focus on declined during 2009, although these declines were not necessarily larger than during previous episodes (Table 5.1B). When we analyze the behavior of these variables in the context of the decline prior to the global recession, however, the recent episode definitely stands out (Figure 5.2). Many countries experienced housing bubbles before the 2009 global recession and ended up with significant declines in house prices during the global recession.
Different Effects by Country
Although aggregate data about the dynamics of global recessions provide a wealth of information, they also mask substantial variation in growth among different groups of countries. In advanced economies, GDP per capita contracted in three of the four global recessions, with 1991 the exception (Figure 5.4 and Table 5.2). Advanced economies were the main locus of the collapse in world GDP in 2009 (Figure 5.5). They went through deep recessions and experienced much larger declines in their GDP compared with previous episodes. In particular, real output per capita fell 4.3 percent, that is, roughly 7 percentage points lower than their average growth during the nonrecession years.
Figure 5.5Contributions to Global Growth during Global Recessions
Note: Each bar presents the contributions of three country groups to world GDP growth (purchasing-power-parity weighted) in the respective time period. World GDP growth is purchasing-power-parity weighted.
|Variable||Average 1972–74||1975||Average 1979–81||1982||Average 1988–90||1991||Average 2006–2008||2009||Average All Global Recessions||Average Non-Recession Years 1960–2012||Average Three Years Before Recession||Average 1960–2012|
|Total output (PW)||4.10||0.05||2.13||0.06||3.78||1.12||1.72||−3.70||−0.62||3.30||2.93||3.00|
|Total output (MW)||3.99||0.05||2.16||0.01||3.86||1.15||1.73||−3.73||−0.63||3.22||2.94||2.92|
|Output per capita (PW)||3.22||−0.73||1.43||−0.52||3.08||0.28||1.05||−4.27||−1.31||2.56||2.20||2.26|
|Output per capita (MW)||3.11||−0.73||1.47||−0.56||3.17||0.31||1.07||−4.31||−1.32||2.47||2.20||2.18|
|Emerging Market Economies|
|Total output (PW)||6.46||5.19||4.12||2.66||4.06||2.24||7.66||2.60||3.17||5.26||5.58||5.10|
|Total output (MW)||6.11||4.87||3.90||2.72||4.01||1.42||7.12||1.63||2.66||5.21||5.28||5.01|
|Output per capita (PW)||4.22||3.06||2.38||0.76||2.37||0.64||6.65||1.49||1.48||3.59||3.90||3.42|
|Output per capita (MW)||3.87||2.74||2.16||0.81||2.32||−0.19||6.10||0.53||0.97||3.54||3.61||3.34|
|Other Developing Economies|
|Total output (PW)||8.11||3.97||2.54||1.96||2.88||1.40||6.09||1.79||2.28||4.37||4.91||4.21|
|Total output (MW)||5.55||4.13||2.62||1.21||2.43||−0.42||5.95||1.02||1.48||4.05||4.14||3.85|
|Output per capita (PW)||5.78||1.76||−0.17||−0.41||0.32||−0.96||4.13||−0.24||0.04||1.98||2.51||1.83|
|Output per capita (MW)||3.22||1.92||−0.09||−1.17||−0.13||−2.78||3.99||−1.01||−0.76||1.67||1.75||1.48|
The 2009 global recession was different for emerging market and developing economies than the previous three global recessions: output per capita actually grew. But while emerging market economies as a group performed relatively well during the latest global recession, there were sharp differences among the economies in different regions (detailed tables document the performance of different regions in Appendix F). Emerging Asia, for example, had the most favorable outcomes, with growth rates declining only modestly. China and India, the two largest economies in emerging Asia, maintained strong growth during the crisis. Output fell most sharply in emerging Europe due to the collapse of capital inflows, international trade, and domestic demand as many of these economies experienced financial crises. Somewhat surprisingly, economies in the Middle East and North Africa and in sub-Saharan Africa weathered the crisis relatively well. Their modest exposures to trade and financial flows from advanced economies may have limited the extent of spillovers from the global shocks. Economies in these regions had also improved their macroeconomic policies prior to the global recession, which gave them more space to respond to the global shock with countercyclical policy measures.
The brunt of the 2009 global recession fell on advanced economies.
What best explains the resilience of emerging market economies as a group during the 2009 global financial crisis? The literature emphasizes seven factors.7 These factors are also useful in understanding differences in resilience across various groups of emerging market economies. First, emerging market economies have become less dependent on foreign finance and have shifted away from foreign-currency-denominated external debt. Second, they came into the crisis with much larger buffers of foreign exchange reserves.8 Third, greater trade linkages among emerging market economies themselves increased their resilience by shielding them to some extent from slower growth in the advanced economies.
Fourth, emerging market economies also have more diversified production and export patterns. Fifth, their business cycles show signs of having diverged from those in the advanced economies as they increased their intragroup trade and financial linkages. Sixth, many emerging market economies have instituted more stable macroeconomic policies, including flexible exchange rate regimes.
Finally, in a number of emerging market economies, rising income levels per capita and a burgeoning middle class have increased the size and absorptive capacity of domestic markets, making them potentially less reliant on foreign trade to benefit from economies of scale in their production structures and also less susceptible to a collapse of exports.
Although emerging market economies as a group displayed resilience during the 2009 global crisis, many subsequently experienced what appears to be a synchronized slowdown. During 2010–14, growth rates in many emerging market economies were markedly lower than prior to the 2009 global financial crisis and are expected to decline in the medium term. This is a result of both external factors, including likely tightening of global financial conditions and weak global trade, and internal factors, including political uncertainty and challenges associated with macroeconomic and structural policies.
Global Downturns: Close Calls!
In addition to the four global recessions discussed here, the global economy experienced relatively low growth in 1998 and 2001. World output per capita (in purchasing-power-parity terms) grew slightly more than 1 percent in these two years (Figure 5.6 and Table 5.3A), the lowest growth rates the global economy registered during 1960–2012, except in the years of global recessions and the years before and after these episodes.
Figure 5.6Growth of World Output during Global Downturns
Note: Each bar shows world output growth per capita (purchasing-power-parity weighted) for the relevant period. Global downturn years are 1998 and 2001. Global recession years are 1975, 1982, 1991, and 2009.
|Variable||1998||2001||Average (global recessions)||Average (1960–2012)|
|Total output (PW)||2.55||2.31||0.94||3.83|
|Total output (MW)||2.31||1.65||0.36||3.44|
|Output per capita (PW)||1.17||1.09||−0.69||2.19|
|Output per capita (MW)||0.93||0.43||−1.27||1.81|
|Capital flows over GDP||−0.44||−7.31||−1.88||0.12|
|Unemployment (labor weighted)||0.33||0.56||0.68||0.06|
|Industrial production (PW)||1.83||−1.85||−3.87||3.78|
|Consumption per capita (PW)||0.91||1.67||0.09||2.16|
|Investment per capita (PW)||3.02||−0.58||−3.74||2.76|
These downturns fall short of qualifying as a global recession, however. The statistical approach we use does not identify these episodes as troughs because world real GDP per capita did not contract in these years. In 1997–98, economic activity in many emerging market economies, particularly in Asia, declined sharply, but growth in advanced economies held up. In 2001, conversely, many advanced economies had mild slowdowns or recessions, but growth in major emerging market economies, such as China and India, remained robust.9
Moreover, during 1998 and 2001, the behavior of the other global indicators was rather mixed, supporting the inference from the statistical method that these episodes did not display the features of a global recession. For example, the main activity indicators we focus on did not suggest a broad-based weakness in the global economy in 1998.10 In 2001, although industrial production did fall and the rate of global unemployment picked up slightly, both global trade flows and oil consumption increased.11 Equity prices declined substantially in 2001, and prices of commodities declined significantly in both episodes (Table 5.3B).
|Variable||1998||2001||Average (global recessions)||Average (1960–2012)|
|House prices (MW)||1.06||2.67||−2.44||1.24|
|Equity prices (MW)||9.07||−15.06||−7.63||3.79|
|Inflation rate (MW)||−0.52||−0.21||−1.04||−1.17|
|Nominal short-term interest rates (MW)||0.24||−0.89||−1.94||−0.08|
|Real short-term interest rates (MW)||1.08||−0.75||0.22||0.00|
These results confirm the earlier finding by Kenneth Rogoff and his coauthors about the 2001 episode. Specifically, they also concluded that the 2001 episode “falls somewhere short of a global recession, certainly in comparison with earlier episodes… That said, it was a close call.”12
How Often? How Likely?
The quotes at the beginning of this chapter show that it is easy to make casual statements about the frequency and likelihood of global recessions.13 Using the disciplined analysis of these episodes we present here, we are able to reach some better informed conclusions about the frequency and likelihood of global recessions. Considering the four global recessions and two global slowdowns we identify since 1960, one can observe that the global economy comes to the verge of a recession or a slowdown over a cycle lasting nine years. This implies that during 1960–2014 the likelihood of a global recession in any given year was about 7 percent (4/55) and the likelihood of a global recession or a downturn was slightly higher than 11 percent (6/55).
What Happens after Global Recessions?
The world economy experiences periods of collapse during global recessions but eventually finds its footing and rebounds. We became acquainted with the main features of global recessions in this chapter; it is time to delve into the characteristics of global recoveries, which are periods of revival for the world economy.