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The Classification of Economic Activity into Expansions and Recessions


  • Travis Berge
  • Oscar Jorda

    (Department of Economics, University of California Davis)


The Business Cycle Dating Committee (BCDC) of the National Bureau of Economic Research provides a historical chronology of business cycle turning points. This paper investigates three central aspects about this chronology: (1) How skillful is the BCDC in classifying economic activity into expansions and recessions? (2) Which indices of business conditions best capture the current but unobservable state of the business cycle? And (3) Which indicators predict future turning points best and at what horizons? We answer each of these questions in detail with methods novel to economics designed to assess classification ability. In the process we clarify several important features of business cycle phenomena.

Suggested Citation

  • Travis Berge & Oscar Jorda, 2009. "The Classification of Economic Activity into Expansions and Recessions," Working Papers 918, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:cda:wpaper:09-18

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2005. "The Case for Mindless Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 784828000000000581, David K. Levine.
    2. Caplin, Andrew & Schotter, Andrew, 2008. "The Foundations of Positive and Normative Economics: A Handbook," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195328318, June.
    3. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
    4. Nikolay Nenovsky & S. Statev, 2006. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-00260898, HAL.
    5. M. Ruth & K. Donaghy & P. Kirshen, 2006. "Introduction," Chapters,in: Regional Climate Change and Variability, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
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    Cited by:

    1. Shaun P Vahey & Elizabeth C Wakerly, 2013. "Moving towards probability forecasting," BIS Papers chapters,in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Globalisation and inflation dynamics in Asia and the Pacific, volume 70, pages 3-8 Bank for International Settlements.
    2. Òscar Jordà & Moritz Schularick & Alan M Taylor, 2011. "Financial Crises, Credit Booms, and External Imbalances: 140 Years of Lessons," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 59(2), pages 340-378, June.
    3. Hsieh Fushing & Shu-Chun Chen & Travis J. Berge & Oscar Jorda, 2010. "A Chronology of International Business Cycles Through Non-parametric Decoding," Working Papers 1020, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    4. Hamilton, James D., 2011. "Calling recessions in real time," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 1006-1026, October.
    5. Brave, Scott & Butters, R. Andrew, 2014. "Nowcasting Using the Chicago Fed National Activity Index," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q I, pages 19-37.

    More about this item


    business cycle turning points; receiver operating characteristic curve;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E37 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General


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