What is a recession in the economy and when will it hit?

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The odds that the U.S. economy will go into a recession are increasing recently after the S&P 500 fell into a bear market for the first time since early 2020.

Economic growth in the first quarter of this year also declined by 1.4% in terms of GDP. Inflation hit a new 40-year high last month. Now all eyes are on the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates even more aggressively, but that may help fuel a recession if it causes unemployment to tick back up and spending to fall.

Yet a recession isn’t necessarily right around the corner, depending on who you ask. Still, with all the talk of a possible recession, you may be wondering how it could affect you.

Will there be a recession in 2022?

Deutsche Bank economists were among the first to predict there will be “a major recession” beginning in late 2023 or early 2024. While Goldman Sachs economists say a recession isn’t inevitable but the odds of one are rising.

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A recession isn’t determined by a negative quarter of GDP, or even two for that matter. Rather, it’s a significant decline in economic activity resulting from several factors, including high unemployment, a slowdown of goods produced and sold, and wages falling in addition to negative GDP readings. That’s according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, which gives the official ruling on when a U.S. recession started and ended.

What happens to stocks during a recession?

As of Monday, the S&P 500 is officially in a bear market, meaning it has declined at least 20% from its January peak.

Bear markets “are almost always associated with a recession,” said Matt Stucky, senior portfolio manager at Northwestern Mutual. The one exception was Black Monday when the S&P 500 fell into bear market territory over the course of one day. But the economy wasn’t in a recession.

On average the S&P 500 losses 32% of its value during recessions, according to research published by RBC Wealth Management.

“If there is a recession – or even a slowdown – we are likely to see reduced enthusiasm for investing by individual investors,” said Kristina Hooper, Invesco’s chief global market strategist. When more people stop buying stocks or sell out of fear that assets will plummet further it puts downward pressure on markets.

“But that’s what will create opportunities for the investors that are willing to buy in,” said McBride.

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Even though she doesn’t believe the U.S. economy is due for a recession she said that high inflation is already creating that effect since “there is, in general, less money available for households to invest.”

If you can afford to keep some money in the stock market during a recession you should, Hooper added. “The biggest mistake investors made during the Global Financial Crisis was to get out of stocks at the bottom, locking in their losses and missing out on some of the dramatic rebound that occurred.”

What happens to employment during a recession?

During a recession, a lot of people tend to lose their jobs. For instance, in the last recession more than 22 million people were laid off. People who keep their jobs during a recession may have their hours and or commission rates reduced.

Employers also tend to cut back on bonuses and raises during a recession.

“There won’t be the same bargaining power you’d want,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. That’s a stark difference from what workers experienced over the past year during the Great Resignation.

During recessions the unemployment rate tends to significantly increase as more Americans delay big purchases leading employers to lay off some workers

“The common wisdom is that even in a recession, you have to get your haircut. Now it turns out that if a recession is caused by a pandemic, you cut your own hair,” said Wendy Edelberg, director of the Hamilton Project, an economic policy arm of the Brookings Institution. That is to say that typically service sector jobs are less sensitive to economic downturns.

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Manufacturing jobs and ones dependent on consumers making big purchases are especially vulnerable in recessions since consumers tend to postpone them.

For instance, if your washing machine breaks during a recession, you may put off buying a new one and instead “bang it to get it to run for the next few months until you feel more secure that you’re not going to get laid off,” she added.

Health insurance coverage

Most of the U.S. population had employment-based health insurance in 2020, according to Census Bureau data. One study published by the Commonwealth Fund estimated that 7.7 million Americans lost employment-based insurance that covered 6.9 million dependents from February to June 2020 after being laid off. 

If you lose your employment-based health insurance, you usually have 60 days to decide if you want to continue with the same health plan through COBRA. But with COBRA you pay the full cost of your health insurance plan, including the portion your employer may have been footing. Or you can buy a new health insurance plan through the government’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

In past recessions, many people who lost employment-based health insurance remained uninsured until they were rehired.

Do banks give out loans during recessions?

During recessions, lenders have to be more selective about borrowers because there’s a greater risk that they will default. For example, lenders are more likely to question your job security since it’s riskier to lend to someone who could be laid off.

That could make it harder for you to get a loan or a new credit card. And for consumers whose FICO credit score is below 670 lenders are more likely to tack on higher interest rates, said McBride.

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That’s why it’s a good idea to start working on improving your credit score now so you can get access to credit you may need if there is a recession. You can do this by paying off debt, paying bills on time, and paying off some of your credit balances so you can lower your credit utilization rate.

And if you’re not sure what your credit score head to annualcreditreport.com, where you can get a free weekly report. Typically, these reports are free only once a year, but the three major credit reporting agencies are providing free weekly reports through December 2022.

Worried about a recession? Share your thoughts with USA TODAY 

With the chances of a recession increasing, USA TODAY wants to know if you’re worried and making preparations. Share your thoughts and experiences with USA TODAY for possible inclusion in future coverage. If you don’t see the form below, click here.

Elisabeth Buchwald is a personal finance and markets correspondent for USA TODAY. You can follow her on Twitter @BuchElisabeth and sign up for our Daily Money newsletter here

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: When will a recession hit? With Federal Reserve rate hikes odds are up