The global economy is experiencing the deepest downturn in the post-World War II period, as the financial crisis rapidly spreads around the world. A large number of advanced economies have fallen into recession, and economies in the rest of the world have slowed abruptly. Global trade and financial flows are shrinking, while output and employment losses mount. Credit markets remain frozen as borrowers are engaged in a drawn-out deleveraging process and banks struggle to improve their financial health. Many aspects of the current crisis are new and unanticipated. Uniquely, the current disruption combines a financial crisis at the heart of the world’s largest economy with a global downturn. Recessions associated with financial crises tend to be unusually severe and their recoveries typically slow. Similarly, globally synchronized recessions are often long and deep, and recoveries from these recessions are generally weak. Countercyclical monetary policy can help shorten recessions, but its effectiveness is limited in financial crises. By contrast, expansionary fiscal policy seems particularly effective in shortening recessions associated with financial crises and boosting recoveries. However, its effectiveness is a decreasing function of the level of public debt. These findings suggest the current recession is likely to be unusually long and severe and the recovery sluggish.