It's virtually impossible to gain visibility into what the recovery will look like simply from examining past recessions. Even the Great Recession, considered the worst downturn since the Great Depression, pales in contrast, according to Joe Davis, Vanguard's global chief economist and the global head of Vanguard Investment Strategy Group.

This time the silver lining is that a recovery could be faster than it has been from most recessions, partly because the downturn has been so vertiginous. In a recent commentary, Davis writes that the Great Depression unfolded over four years. Some economic historians might argue there was no real recovery until World War II began 11 years later.

Davis expects sweeping restrictions in America, Europe and Asia to start being lifted by early summer. Shortly thereafter, a recovery that is partly U-shaped, partly V-shaped is likely to commence.

Most of the reason behind the V-shaped part of the recovery is simply that economy activity declined so sharply in March and April. Entire industries were shut down. Davis calls it the Great Fall.

The fall we are experiencing is so "severe it's unlikely to continue for very long," he writes. "Technically, we'll be out of recession as soon as GDP rebounds from pandemic-induced lows and unemployment starts to decline."

Just because third- or fourth-quarter GDP could display dramatic gains, possibly in the double digits, does not mean everything will sunny. Economic officials in the Trump administration have predicted unemployment could rise to 20% or more in the next two months.

"Getting business activity back to to where it was before the pandemic could take two years," Davis writes.

Why? Simple supply and demand.

Global supply chains have been disrupted, as evidenced by oil sitting in tankers, milk being dumped, chickens being slaughtered and cows gaining weight way beyond optimal levels because restaurants around the world have been shuttered for the better part of two months.

Davis believes this problem is likely to be exacerbated on the demand side, as fearful consumers are hesitant to resume their normal behavior when it comes to attending large events and dining out. There is also the question of how successful a phased-in, winding down of social distancing is.

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