The National Bureau of Economic Research made it official on November 26, 2001: The U.S. economy entered a recession in March 2001. This ended the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, exactly ten years after it began. The September 11 attacks played a significant role in turning what had been viewed as an economic slowdown into a recession. However, this downturn has not been as large as past recessions, more like a bunny ski slope than a black-diamond run, and there are other striking differences from previous recessions. While overall economic growth has been slow since the second quarter of 2000, the consumer sector has done very well. Light vehicle sales set a record in 2000, at 17.2 million units, and sales for the first 11 months of 2001 are challenging that record at 17.1 million units. Housing starts through the first ten months of 2001 were 1.8% higher than the comparable period a year ago.