The 2008 recession was so nasty because the economy immediately contracted percent in the first quarter of 2008. When it rebounded 2 percent in the second quarter, everyone thought the downturn was over. But it contracted another percent in the third quarter, before plummeting a whopping percent in the fourth quarter. The economy received another wallop in the first quarter of 2009 when it contracted a brutal percent. The unemployment rate rose from percent in January to percent by December. See 2008 GDP Statistics .