Archive for the 'Inflation' Category

Sep 27 2012

Understanding the Consumer Price Index – the Fed’s “Drawing Board”

MV=PQ: A Resource for Economic Educators: Some Classroom Resources

Special thanks to Tim Schilling at MV=PQ blog for pointing out the Cleveland Fed’s interesting video series called the “Drawing Board”.

This video introduces the concept of Consumer Price Index as a measure of inflation in the United States, shows how CPI is calculated, and then goes into a bit more detail than perhaps the AP or IB student needs when it introduces a new method of measuring inflation used by the Fed called “median inflation”.

AP and IB students can benefit most from watching up to 4:12. In this first half of the video the CPI is defined, its measurement demonstrated, short-comings discussed and the “core CPI” explained.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why does the Bureau of Labor Statistics weight different items included in the measure of the consumer price index? What type of good gets a greater weights than others?
  2. What are some of the purposes the CPI figure serves? Why do we care about changes in the price level in an economy?
  3. What is one short-coming of the traditional method used for measuring the inflation rate using CPI?
  4. Why did the BLS decide exclude oil and food prices from its “core CPI” figure?

112 responses so far

Sep 27 2012

Deflation: why lower prices spell doom for any economy!

The Fed should focus on deflation | The greater of two evils | The Economist

Deflation: a decrease in the general price level of goods and services of an economy. Sounds great, right? Lower prices mean the purchasing power of our income increases, making the “average” person richer! On the surface, it could be concluded that deflation may actually be a good thing. And in some cases, it is!

If prices of goods are falling because of major technological advances (think of the price of cell phones and laptop computers over the last 20 years) or because of massive improvements in the productivity of labor and capital (think of the price of manufactured consumer goods during the Industrial Revolution), then deflation could be considered a sign of healthy economic growth. Put in terms an IB or AP Economics student should understand, a fall in prices caused by an increase in a nation’s aggregate supply is good, since it is accompanied by greater levels of employment and higher real incomes. But if the fall in prices is caused by a decline in spending in the economy (in other words, by a decrease in aggregate demand), the consequences can be catastrophic.

It just so happens that the United States, Great Britain, and my own home of Switzerland are all faced with demand-deficient deflation at this very moment. I’ll allow the Economist to elaborate:

…With unemployment nearing 9% (in the United States), economic output is further below the economy’s potential than at any time since 1982. This gap is likely to widen. House prices are not part of America’s inflation index but their decline is forcing households to reduce debt , which could subdue economic growth for years. As workers compete for scarce jobs and firms underbid each other for sales, wages and prices will come under pressure.

So far, expectations of inflation remain stable: that sentiment is itself a welcome bulwark against deflation. But pay freezes and wage cuts may soon change people’s minds. In one poll, more than a third of respondents said they or someone in their household had suffered a cut in pay or hours…

Does this matter? If prices are falling because of advancing productivity, as at the end of the 19th century, it is a sign of progress, not economic collapse. Today, though, deflation is more likely to resemble the malign 1930s sort than that earlier benign variety, because demand is weak and households and firms are burdened by debt. In deflation the nominal value of debts remains fixed even as nominal wages, prices and profits fall. Real debt burdens therefore rise, causing borrowers to cut spending to service their debts or to default. That undermines the financial system and deepens the recession.

From 1929 to 1933 prices fell by 27%. This time central banks are on the case. In America, Britain, Japan and Switzerland they have pushed short-term interest rates to, or close to, zero…

inflation is easier to put right than deflation. A central bank can raise interest rates as high as it wants to suppress inflation, but it cannot cut nominal rates below zero… In the worst case, rising debts and defaults depress growth, poisoning the economy by deepening deflation and pressing real interest rates higher….Given the choice, erring on the side of inflation would be less catastrophic than erring on the side of deflation.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Deflation poses several threats to an economy that is otherwise fundamentally healthy, such as the United States’. What are some the threats posed by deflation?
  2. The expectation of future deflation can have as equally devastating effect. Why is this?
  3. What evidence does the article put forth that an economy experiencing deflation may eventually “self-correct”, meaning return to the full employment level of output in the long-run?
  4. Why don’t governments and central banks just sit back and let the economy self-correct? In other words, why are fiscal and monetary policies being used so aggressively by the US, Great Britain and Switzerland during this economic crisis?

Deflation or Inflation:Watch the video below, see if gives you any clues as to the causes and effects of deflation. What do you think John Maynard Keynes would say in response to the deflationary fears expressed in the Economist article?

60 responses so far

Sep 20 2012

Measuring the Macroeconomic Objectives – research activity

The activity below is to introduce Economics students to the three primary Macroeconomic objectives of any government or policy making body. These are :

Full employment of the nations work force: This means that nearly everyone who wants to work in the country is able to find a job. It does not mean that there is no unemployment, rather that the unemployment that does prevail in the economy is voluntary, i.e. it exists because workers are simply not willing to work at the prevailing wage rate. If there is involuntary unemployment in the economy, then the country is not meeting its macroeconomic objective, and there is likely a recession caused by a lack of overall demand (aggregate demand) for the nation’s goods and services.

Resources for learning about Full Employment:

Price level stability: Changes in the average price level of goods and services in the nation are measured by calculating inflation, commonly using a consumer price index to do so. Low and stable inflation is one of the macroeconomic objectives since price level volatility (high inflation or deflation) has several harmful effects on a nation’s households and business firms. Keeping inflation low and stable promotes a healthy environment for achieving business investment, full employment and economic growth

Resources for learning about Price level stability:

Economic growth: The third macroeconomic objective is to increase the output of the nation’s goods and services year after year. Economic growth refers to the increase in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and can be measured by finding the total value of a nation’s output one year, comparing it to the previous year, and adjusting it for any changes in the price level between the years. Economic growth is a desirable goal because it generally means that incomes are rising and people’s lives are getting better. Of course, GDP only measures the physical output of goods and services, and does not include many non-economic variables that also should be considered when measuring people’s well-being. But rising incomes and output are deemed worthy goals since they are associated with rising living standards.

Assignment: Complete the readings and online activities above. Then use the data in the table linked below to answer the quesitons that follow.


Questions:

  1. Calculate the unemployment rates for each of the years in the table. Describe what happened to unemployment over the years displayed.
  2. Calculate the inflation rates between each of the years in the table. Describe what happened to inflation over the years displayed.
  3. Calculate the Real GDP for each of the years in the table.
  4. Calculate the Real GDP growth rates between each of the years in the table. Describe what happened to real GDP from one year to the next in the years displayed.
  5. Describe the relationship between the inflation and unemployment rates you calculated for each of the years. Is there any correlation in how the figures change from year to year?
  6. Based on your analysis of the data above, to what extent has the United States succeeded in achieving its three macroeconomic objectives of:

7 responses so far

Dec 13 2011

Podcast: Time is Money

Over the weekend I watched the new Justin Timberlake movie, In Time. In this edition of Welker’s Wikinomics Podcast I analyze the movie’s basic premise from a macroeconomic viewpoint.

Listen to the podcast, and then answer the discussion questions at the bottom of this post.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why does increasing the supply of money cause the demand for goods and services to rise?
  2. Why does increasing the supply of money ultimately cause the supply of goods and services to fall?
  3. When would an increase in the money supply be most inflationary, when an economy is producing close to its full employment level or when an economy is experiencing a recession? Explain.
  4. With the help of a money market diagram and an aggregate demand / aggregate supply diagram, illustrate the effects of Will and Silvia’s re-distribution of time on the Ghetto’s economy.
  5. According to Friedman, expansionary monetary policy cannot contribute to a nation’s long-run economic growth. What types of government policies can be implemented to promote economic growth in a nation?

Podcast Credits: 

  • Intro song: The Rolling Stones – Time is On My Side
  • Ending song: Pink Floyd – Money
  • Milton Friedman quotes – Donahue, 1980

No responses yet

Sep 30 2011

Lesson Plan: Macroeconomic Indicators around the World

Directions: Macroeconomics is an area of study with precise goals attached to it. Macroeconomists generally agree that there are three primary goals towards which policies should be used to try and achieve:

Understanding the indicators used in macroeconomics to measure the success in these three areas is important. In the activity that follows, you will research, define, and explain the various types of inflation, unemployment and economic growth. You will also research and record examples of these indicators from several countries. Finally, you will investigate your OWN country, and determine what precisely makes up the total amount of economic activity in your country.

 

Part 1: Using your notes and your textbook (Welker’s chapters 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15), answer the following questions. Most of the country data you are asked to find can be found in the CIA World Factbook.

Define and explain the various types of each of the following:

  1. Define inflation [2 marks]
    1. Type 1 [1 mark]:
    2. Type 2 [1 mark]:
    3. Research and identify the current inflation rates in [3 marks]:
      • Switzerland
      • China
      • United States
  2. Define unemployment [2 marks]
    1. Type 1 [1 mark]:
    2. Type 2 [1 mark]:
    3. Type 3 [1 mark]:
    4. Research and identify the current unemployment rates in [3 marks]:
      • The UK
      • Germany
      • Spain
  3. Define Full Employment and Natural Rate of Unemployment [2 marks]
  4. Define economic growth and illustrate the concept of growth using a production possibilities curve [4 marks]
    1. Research and identify the most recent GDP growth rates in
      • Nigeria
      • Greece
      • Japan

Part 2:

  1. Identify the four components of a nation’s aggregate demand and briefly explain two factors that affect each of the four components (this can be found in Welker’s chapter 12) [10 marks]
  2. Research and identify the main macroeconomic indicators for your home country. Enter the information you find into THIS ONLINE FORM, and click submit when you’re done.

Part 3: The Results : You can view the results of the form by clicking HERE

Discussion Questions:

  1. Which of the countries appear to be doing the BEST job of meeting their macroeconomic objectives of low unemployment, low inflation and economic growth?
  2. Which countries appear to be doing the WORST at meeting their macroeconomic objectives?
  3. Which countries have the highest GDP growth rates? What do the highest growth countries have in common? What is different about them?
  4. Which countries have the lowest unemployment rates? What do these countries have in common?
  5. Which country experienced a recession in 2010? Discuss the possible relationship between economic growth and unemployment?

5 responses so far

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