Business Cycle Council
The C.D. Howe Institute Business Cycle Council is an arbiter of business cycle dates in Canada. The Council meets when economic conditions indicate the possibility of entry to, or exit from, a recession. The Council also acts as a conduit for research aimed at developing a deeper understanding of how the economy evolves and to provide guidance to policymakers. The Council performs a similar function to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Business Cycle Dating Committee in the United States. The Council is comprised of Canada’s preeminent economists active in the field. Members of the Council participate in their personal capacities, and the views collectively expressed do not represent those of any institution or client.
The Council released its first report on October 24, 2012, providing an assessment of the 2008/09 recession, as well as an historical chronology of business cycle dates going back to 1926 (a background commentary that explains in greater details the methodology and the chronology can be found here). In its second report, the council determined that as of July 22, 2015, data did not provide evidence that Canada had entered an economic downturn. Its third report, using the most recent revisions to Gross Domestic Product data, affirmed the second report.
The Council defines a recession as a pronounced, pervasive and persistent decline in aggregate economic activity. In deciding on the occurrence and timing of a recession, the Council looks at three dimensions: duration, amplitude, and scope – or how widespread a downturn is. The Council does not impose preset conditions with respect to amplitude, duration, and scope, notably because these considerations need to be judged simultaneously and because the economy and its measurement change over time.
The Council also adopted a classification system that allows grouping recessions according to their severity from Category 1, the mildest, to Category 5, the most severe. Category 1 recessions have only a short, mild drop in GDP and no decline in quarterly employment. At the other extreme, Category 5 recessions involve extremely rapid contractions of the economy over an extended period of time. The past three recessions were the most severe since the mid-20th Century
Business cycle dates are determined by consensus. In the event of dissension among Council members, a simple plurality of votes is used. Votes are subject to a quorum of at least half of the members of the Council. The Council chair votes only in the event of a stalemate.