Recessions are not a new occurrence, nor are they at all limited to the well-known, and rare incidents such as the dot-com crash, and the Great Depression of 1929; in fact, in the United States, the National Bureau of Economic Research (the bureau is involved in a number of economic research areas, including: a. defining when a given recession starts and ends, and b. analysis and research upon economic factors, and indicators, may be indicative of a recession) identified 11 recessions between 1945 and 2007.
The National Bureau, despite the official sounding name, is a collection of leading economists who finance and manage research in to all kinds of economy-related questions. The National Bureau of Economic Research is the largest body of economic researchers in the United States, making it’s opinion one of the most respected recession indicators available. One of the important contributions by the N.B.E.R. to mainstream economics is the huge collection of economic indicators and data feeds indexed on their website – this index is used by economists and analysts for study and informative purposes.
The 2008 real estate boom/banking crash recession was termed by the N.B.E.R. to have started in December of 2007, citing declining jobs as being the primary indicator: “The committee views the payroll employment measure, which is based on a large survey of employers, as the most reliable comprehensive estimate of employment, this series reached a peak in December 2007 and has declined every month since then.” said the Bureau in December of 2008.
Economic recessions in any nation have historically been wide-reaching, effecting international economies and as such international recessions are just as common as nation-specific recessions, and furthermore, recessions may beget further recessions in other countries. As such, recessions are often grouped together despite occurring at slightly different times, or having differing effects between regions, generally, because they share a single event or stimulus which can be traced as the origin.
The history of economic statistics starts in the nineteenth century; prior to that, little in the way of employment metrics, wages, income, production, inflation, and other important economic indicators could be identified. As such, there’s little but subjective politicking in terms of determining when a recession started, or ended, and even if one ever occurred.
Note, that we don’t distinguish much here between depressions and recessions, the names, when available are the commonly accepted name among economists and/or historians.