Dubbing the Downturn

This recession goes by many names

  • Remember when one word or catchphrase could sum up the entire economy? In the 1970s it was "stagflation," reflecting the idea that inflation could be high even when economic growth was low. In the early '90s, "jobless recovery" referred to the recession that ousted President George H.W. Bush. The jury is still out on what pithy moniker will rule the day in today's economy. "The new normal," referring to an extended period of slow growth, was a strong contender. But with joblessness on the rise again and housing still in the dumps, the catchphrasers are back at work. The current slump could be a "soft patch," a temporary slide caused by the Japanese tsunami, the Arab Spring and bad weather; a "double dip," which is two recessions in quick succession; or, perhaps the most deflating, a "growth recession," in which the economy grows but not fast enough to create jobs. As was the case in Japan, a growth recession could lead to the U.S.'s own "lost decade." Whatever happens, it's clear the lexicon of economic bad news is expanding.