Recession v Depression

October 11th, 2008

Bank of England

Following recent depressing job losses in Manchester architecture practices, a useful definition from Greg Mankiw’s economics blog:

A student asks,

What makes a recession officially turn into a depression?

There is no official designation of depression. The NBER business cycle dating committee, of which I was once a member, picks the business cycle turning points. That is, with the benefit of hindsight, the committee says when the economy switches between expansion and contraction. Traditionally, milder contractions are called recessions and more severe contractions are called depressions, but there is no official word on which is which. Perhaps the clearest definition is this:

A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours.

Picture: Column detail, Bank of England, Architect: John Soane


The current fashion for coloured glass and plastic in buildings goes backfurther than Donald Judd coloured boxes from the 1960’s. Sir John Soane usedsheets of yellow tinted glass to give a warm glow in his Dulwich mausoleumand red glass shown here in his house in Holborn.