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Does it mean "recessions"? If so, why is there "11" in the previous sentence?

The United States has experienced 11 recessions in the 70 years since the end of World War II, with the last recession occurring in 2008. There have been 14 five-year periods since the war.

Source: The Washington Post

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This was a bit of a tricky sentence to parse and define, even with the context of the article.

First of all, periods does not mean recessions in this excerpt. The first sentence is simply saying the United States has had 11 recessions in the 70 years since World War II. The second sentence is merely saying that if you divided that 70 years into 5 year chunks (or periods) there are 14 of those periods.

The clue to understanding this excerpt is actually in the first sentence of the article.

Investors should be on guard for a recession in the next five years by stockpiling cash for the day when stocks and bonds — as they always do — go on sale.

The first sentence sets the stage. It's saying that investors need to be wary of an incoming recession in the next five years. What your excerpt is suggesting is that assuming the time between recessions is fairly evenly spread out, that the economy is probably due for a recession.

By saying that there have been 11 recessions in the last 14 five-year periods, the author is suggesting that recessions occur almost once every five-year period. Given that it has been 9 years since the last recession (in 2008) the author is saying that investors should except another recession to come soon.

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