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What is 'Aggregate Supply'

Aggregate supply, also known as total output, is the total supply of goods and services produced within an economy at a given overall price level in a given time period. It is represented by the aggregate supply curve, which describes the relationship between price levels and the quantity of output that firms are willing to provide. Normally, there is a positive relationship between aggregate supply and the price level.

BREAKING DOWN 'Aggregate Supply'

Rising prices are usually signals for businesses to expand production to meet a higher level of aggregate demand. When demand increases amid constant supply, consumers compete for the goods available and therefore pay higher prices. This change in dynamic induces firms to increase supply output to sell more goods. The resulting supply increase causes prices to normalize and output to remain elevated.

Causes of Aggregate Supply Shifts

A shift in aggregate supply can be attributed to a number of variables. These include changes in the size and quality of labor, technological innovations, increase in wages, increase in production costs, changes in producer taxes and subsidies, and changes in inflation. Some of these factors lead to positive changes in aggregate supply, while others cause aggregate supply to decline.

For example, increased labor efficiency, perhaps through outsourcing or automation, raises supply output by decreasing the labor cost per unit of supply. By contrast, wage increases - prevalent in many areas of the U.S. as of 2016 - place downward pressure on aggregate supply by increasing production costs.

Short Run vs. Long Run

In the short run, aggregate supply responds to higher demand (and prices) by increasing the utilization of current inputs in the production process. In the short run, the level of capital is fixed, and a company cannot, for example, erect a new factory or introduce a new technology to increase production efficiency. Instead, the company ramps up supply by getting more out of its existing factors of production, such as assigning workers more hours or increasing the utilization of existing technology.

In the long run, however, aggregate supply is not affected by the price level and is driven only by improvements in productivity and efficiency. Such improvements include increased skill and education of workers, technological advancements and increases in capital. Certain economic viewpoints, such as the Keynesian theory, assert that long run aggregate supply is still price elastic up to a certain point, and once this point is reached supply becomes insensitive to changes in the price level.

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