Brussels Map on Although we cannot specify with any precision the duration of business cycles, there is a particular relationship between the two phases. Since the U.S. economy has grown considerably over the past 150 years, expansions tend to be longer than contractions (the former averaged 38 months compared to 18 months for the latter, since the Civil War), even though both vary quite a lot in duration. The longest contraction, from October 1873 to March 1879, was only about half the length of the longest expansion. Business cycles also appear to be characteristic of capitalism. We have seen that they exist in the United States, but they also exist in any capitalist economy. Brussels Map 2016.