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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Economics, 2nd Edition by Tom Gorman

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What Is the Business Cycle?

The economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), goes through alternating phases of growth and contraction. Phases of growth are called expansions, upswings, or recoveries. Phases of contraction are called recessions, downturns, or periods of negative growth (yes, it’s an oxymoron, but one that economists insist on using).
The exact beginning or end of a recession or expansion can be difficult to determine, particularly as it is happening. It can be a challenge even after the fact. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, does the official dating of recessions and expansions, but not always in the timeliest manner. They took about 20 months to declare the official date ...

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