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Further, reduced consumption due to higher household leverage can account for a significant decline in employment levels.

Both durable and non-durable goods consumption declined as households moved from low to high leverage with the decline in property values experienced during the subprime mortgage crisis.

For example, economist Richard Koo wrote that Japan's "Great Recession" that began in 1990 was a "balance sheet recession." It was triggered by a collapse in land and stock prices, which caused Japanese firms to have negative equity, meaning their assets were worth less than their liabilities. He argued that monetary policy was ineffective because there was limited demand for funds while firms paid down their liabilities.

Despite zero interest rates and expansion of the money supply to encourage borrowing, Japanese corporations in aggregate opted to pay down their debts from their own business earnings rather than borrow to invest as firms typically do. In a balance sheet recession, GDP declines by the amount of debt repayment and un-borrowed individual savings, leaving government stimulus spending as the primary remedy.

If asset prices fall below the value of the debt incurred to purchase them, then the equity must be negative, meaning the consumer or corporation is insolvent.

Economist Paul Krugman wrote in 2014 that "the best working hypothesis seems to be that the financial crisis was only one manifestation of a broader problem of excessive debt--that it was a so-called "balance sheet recession." In Krugman's view, such crises require debt reduction strategies combined with higher government spending to offset declines from the private sector as it pays down its debt.

Although subject to a common monetary policy since 1999, they even now have heterogeneous institutions and policies.

Moreover, European statistics are of uneven quality, long time series are not available, and data definitions differ across countries and sources.

A recession has many attributes that can occur simultaneously and includes declines in component measures of economic activity (GDP) such as consumption, investment, government spending, and net export activity.

These summary measures reflect underlying drivers such as employment levels and skills, household savings rates, corporate investment decisions, interest rates, demographics, and government policies. Koo wrote that under ideal conditions, a country's economy should have the household sector as net savers and the corporate sector as net borrowers, with the government budget nearly balanced and net exports near zero.

Koo argues that it was massive fiscal stimulus (borrowing and spending by the government) that offset this decline and enabled Japan to maintain its level of GDP. In other words, people would tend to spend more rather than save if they believe inflation is on the horizon.

In more technical terms, Krugman argues that the private sector savings curve is elastic even during a balance sheet recession (responsive to changes in real interest rates) disagreeing with Koo's view that it is inelastic (non-responsive to changes in real interest rates).

The NBER defines an economic recession as: "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales." Almost universally, academics, economists, policy makers, and businesses defer to the determination by the NBER for the precise dating of a recession's onset and end.

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