The historically deep COVID-19 recession appears to have turned the corner in most countries. But current private and official forecasts, if correct, imply that most economies will not return to their previous performance peaks until late 2022.

Much will depend not only on the evolution of the pandemic and effective therapeutic and vaccine deployment, but also on the monetary, fiscal, trade and regulatory policies that are pursued. Policymakers and commentators are thus examining previous episodes in search of an effective response.

All recessions differ in terms of their proximate cause. Several post-World War II recessions in the United States followed monetary-policy tightening by the U.S. Federal Reserve to control rising inflation. The deep recessions of 1973-1975 and 1981-1982 followed large oil shocks (when the economy relied more heavily on energy imports than it does now). And the 2001 recession came after the dotcom bubble burst.