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Recessions and Recoveries

View the full, interactive visualisation.


“In common use almost every word has many shades of meaning, and therefore needs to be interpreted by the context.”

- Alfred Marshall,‘Principles of Economics’

Just like words, data points must be placed in context to be properly understood. And giving meaning to data is the basic goal of data visualisation.

This visualisation attempts to contextualise the key data points relating to the UK’s most recent recession. Specifically, the visualisation compares the 2008 recession to recessions in other countries and to past recessions in the UK.

The visualisation provides several insights:

  1. Productivity puzzles: Both panels show the weak recovery in productivity growth which has characterised the UK’s most recent recession. However, the top panel also shows that productivity growth following UK recessions in the ‘80s and ‘90s was particularly strong compared to other G7 members.

  1. An historical echo: The lower panel shows that the most recent recession resembles a recession that took place 100 years earlier, in 1908; it triggered a similar sized fall in GDP and was accompanied by a similar lacklustre recovery in productivity. The 1908 recession also came from a financial crisis, the "Panic of 1907", which originated in the US.

  2. Global triggers: The lower panel shows that, consistent with the recent crisis, the most severe recessions in the UK have all been triggered by global events. Specifically, the largest falls in GDP came after WW1 and WW2, and during the Great Depression. One key difference between these and the 2008 crisis is that prices have exhibited greater stability in the most recent recession.



Cath Sleeman

Cath Sleeman

Cath Sleeman

Head of Data Discovery, Data Analytics Practice

Dr Cath Sleeman is the Head of Data Discovery.

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