Macroeconomics: The Business Cycle
AAA
  1. Macroeconomics: Introduction and History
  2. Macroeconomics: Schools Of Thought
  3. Macroeconomics: Microeconomics Foundation
  4. Macroeconomics: Supply, Demand and Elasticity
  5. Macroeconomics: Money And Banking
  6. Macroeconomics: Economic Systems
  7. Macroeconomics: Inflation
  8. Macroeconomics: The Business Cycle
  9. Macroeconomics: Unemployment
  10. Macroeconomics: Economic Performance and Growth
  11. Macroeconomics: Government - Expenditures, Taxes and Debt
  12. Macroeconomics: International Trade
  13. Macroeconomics: Currency
  14. Macroeconomics: Conclusion

Macroeconomics: The Business Cycle

By Stephen Simpson

The business cycle is the pattern of expansion, contraction and recovery in the economy. Generally speaking, the business cycle is measured and tracked in terms of GDP and unemployment – GDP rises and unemployment shrinks during expansion phases, while reversing in periods of recession. Wherever one starts in the cycle, the economy is observed to go through four periods – expansion, peak, contraction and trough.

Recession is typically used to mean a downturn in economic activity, but most economists use a specific definition of "two consecutive quarters of declining real GDP" for recession. By comparison, there is no formal definition of depression. While recessions have averaged around 10 months in length since the 1950s, the recovery/expansion phases have a much wider range of lengths, though around three years is relatively common.

The movement of the economy through business cycles also highlights certain economic relationships. While growth will rise and fall with cycles, there is a long-term trend line for growth; when economic growth is above the trend line, unemployment usually falls. One expression of this relationship is Okun's Law, an equation that holds that every 1% of GDP above trend equates to 0.5% less unemployment.

The relationship between inflation and growth is not as clear, but inflation does tend to fall during recessions and then increase through recoveries. (To learn more about the business cycle, see Recession: What Does It Mean To Investors?)

While the business cycle is a relatively simple concept, there is great debate among economists as to what influences the length and magnitude of the individual parts of the cycle, and whether the government can (or should) play a role in influencing this process. Keynesians, for instance, believe that the government can soften the impact of recessions (and shorten their duration) by cutting taxes and increasing spending, while also preventing an economy from "overheating" by increasing taxes and cutting spending during expansion phases.

In comparison, many monetarist economists disagree with the notion of business cycles altogether and prefer to look at changes in the economy as irregular (non-cyclical) fluctuations. In many cases, they believe that declines in business activity are the result of monetary phenomena and that active government inflation is ineffective at best and destabilizing at worst.

There are numerous other alternate theories on the business cycle and its causes/influences. Real business cycle theorists, for instance, believe that it is external shocks like innovation and technological progress that drive cycles, and that issues like excessive overcapacity can drive downturns. Other theorists suggest that excess speculation or the creation of excess levels of bank capital drive business cycles. (To learn more about the Keynesian theory, check out Can Keynesian Economics Reduce Boom-Bust Cycles?)

Macroeconomics: Unemployment

  1. Macroeconomics: Introduction and History
  2. Macroeconomics: Schools Of Thought
  3. Macroeconomics: Microeconomics Foundation
  4. Macroeconomics: Supply, Demand and Elasticity
  5. Macroeconomics: Money And Banking
  6. Macroeconomics: Economic Systems
  7. Macroeconomics: Inflation
  8. Macroeconomics: The Business Cycle
  9. Macroeconomics: Unemployment
  10. Macroeconomics: Economic Performance and Growth
  11. Macroeconomics: Government - Expenditures, Taxes and Debt
  12. Macroeconomics: International Trade
  13. Macroeconomics: Currency
  14. Macroeconomics: Conclusion
RELATED TERMS
  1. Premium to Surplus Ratio

    Net premiums written divided by policyholders’ surplus. The premium ...
  2. Current Liquidity

    The total amount of cash and unaffiliated holdings compared to ...
  3. Developed To Net Premiums Earned

    The ratio of developed premiums to net premiums earned over a ...
  4. Return On Policyholder Surplus

    The ratio of an insurance company’s net income to its policyholder ...
  5. Absolute Percentage Growth

    An increase in the value of an asset or account expressed in ...
  6. Capital Loss Coverage Ratio

    The difference between an asset’s book value and the amount received ...
  1. What are the main reasons for why there could be a negative gross profit margin and ...

    Find out how to calculate a company's gross profit margin, why a firm might experience a negative margin and how to interpret ...
  2. Where is cost of living lowest in the world?

    Learn how the cost of living is the lowest in India based on numbers derived from the CPI and organizations like Expatistan ...
  3. Are oil prices and interest rates correlated?

    Yes. No. Maybe. Definitely. There's no easy answer to this question. While many theories abound, the reality is that oil ...
  4. What is the difference between arbitrage and speculation?

    Arbitrage and speculation are very different strategies. Arbitrage involves the simultaneous buying and selling of an asset ...

You May Also Like

Related Tutorials
  1. Fundamental Analysis

    Ethical Investing Tutorial

  2. Economics

    Economics Basics

  3. Bonds & Fixed Income

    Investing For Safety and Income Tutorial

  4. Economics

    The Federal Reserve

  5. Investing Basics

    Capital Budgeting

Trading Center