The advance fourth-quarter real gross domestic product declined 3.8%, the worst showing since a 6.4% drop in the first quarter of 1982, but nonetheless came in above expectations that centered on a 5% slide.

First-quarter data so far suggest continued contraction. Even nominal GDP fell in the period. It marks a second drop in GDP after a 0.5% slip in the third quarter — the classic definition of recession. The last time there were two consecutive negative growth quarters was the fourth quarter of 1990 and the first quarter of 1991.

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