What is a Pale Recession

A pale recession is a phrase used in May 2008 by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan to describe an economic environment in which recession has not yet hit all the areas of the economy. In particular, Greenspan was speaking of the U.S. employment numbers at the time, which had not yet seen as significant a decline as would be expected in a full recessionary environment, which is generally marked by a broad decline in economic activity across the economy.

BREAKING DOWN Pale Recession

Greenspan used the term "pale recession" in a television interview with Bloomberg on May 4, 2008. When asked whether the U.S. was in a recession he responded, "We're in a recession ... but this is an awfully pale recession at the moment. The declines in employment have not been as big as you'd expect to see."


Alan Greenspan served as Federal Reserve Chairman for 19 years under four Presidents. In this role, he was responsible for leading the Federal Reserve Board in what amounts to an executive chairman position. His main responsibility was to carry out the mandate of the Federal Reserve, which is charged with maintaining stable prices, high employment and moderate inflation in the U.S. economy. As the public face of the Fed, Greenspan was well known by legislators and the general public, and his testimonies and speeches were highly anticipated and followed. He became known for somewhat rambling oratories laden with terms such as "crony capitalism" and "irrational exuberance," which in turn promptly popped up in headlines and conversations across the nation. "Pale recession" is an example of such a term.