Aggregate Demand and Aggregate Supply

Aggregate Demand and Aggregate Supply: The Long Run and the Short Run

Case in Point: The U.S. Recession of 2001

What were the causes of the U.S. recession of 2001? Economist Kevin Kliesen of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis points to four factors that, taken together, shifted the aggregate demand curve to the left and kept it there for a long enough period to keep real GDP falling for about nine months. They were the fall in stock market prices, the decrease in business investment both for computers and software and in structures, the decline in the real value of exports, and the aftermath of 9/11. Notable exceptions to this list of culprits were the behavior of consumer spending during the period and new residential housing, which falls into the investment category.

During the expansion in the late 1990s, a surging stock market probably made it easier for firms to raise funding for investment in both structures and information technology. Even though the stock market bubble burst well before the actual recession, the continuation of projects already underway delayed the decline in the investment component of GDP. Also, spending for information technology was probably prolonged as firms dealt with Y2K computing issues, that is, computer problems associated with the change in the date from 1999 to 2000. Most computers used only two digits to indicate the year, and when the year changed from '99 to '00, computers did not know how to interpret the change, and extensive reprogramming of computers was required.

Real exports fell during the recession because (1) the dollar was strong during the period and (2) real GDP growth in the rest of the world fell almost 5% from 2000 to 2001.

Then, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which literally shut down transportation and financial markets for several days, may have prolonged these negative tendencies just long enough to turn what might otherwise have been a mild decline into enough of a downtown to qualify the period as a recession.

During this period the measured price level was essentially stable – with the implicit price deflator rising by less than 1%. Thus, while the aggregate demand curve shifted left as a result of all the reasons given above, there was also a leftward shift in the short-run aggregate supply curve.