Unemployment and Inflation in the United States

Topic: Economics
Words: 2314 Pages: 8


A country’s macroeconomic policies aim to reduce unemployment and inflation rates, which are significant challenges confronted by varying economies of scale. Both inflation and unemployment have a devastating impact on the economy. As a result, an analysis of vital components of unemployment and inflation will be covered. Although unemployment and inflation have a contrary relationship on the Phillips curve used earlier to direct macroeconomic policy, they have been subjected to setbacks and opposition in modern-day economies. Therefore, a review of US unemployment over the past 20 years will be covered to provide adequate oversight, understand the Philips curve, and facilitate appropriate economic recommendations.

Macroeconomic Theories

The Phillips Curve has a cold-warm relationship with current macroeconomic models regarding unemployment and inflation. In the 1960s, macroeconomic models incorporated the idea that there is a consistent inverse link between unemployment rates and inflation (Mangapuram, 2022). Numerous macroeconomists in the U.S. were baffled by the longevity of inflation in the face of a recession. Subsequently, inflation accelerated in most industrialized capitalist economies in the 1960s, despite no noticeable drop in unemployment.

Historical Relationship between Inflation and Unemployment

Macroeconomists launched several vicious criticisms of the Phillips Curve, but their critique tried to alter rather than eliminate it. Behind the hypothetical Phillips Curve were strong neoclassical beliefs about demand and supply (Yasmin et al., 2019). Even though macroeconomics detached from the underlying market dynamics, the negative relationship between unemployment and inflation showed that perfect competition was a reasonable assumption in the analysis of broad variables.

Historically the U.S. has experienced an inverse relationship between unemployment and inflation. As inflation is related to product prices, unemployment drops significantly. For instance, an individual’s disposable income rises due to increased employment, resulting in a subsequent demand rise, eventually skyrocketing commodity prices. Moreover, the last 20 years have been characterized by increasing employment within the U.S., which reached extreme levels in the 21st century due to increased technological advancement and adoption into the markets. The federal government has developed stringent policies to countercheck higher inflation levels to curb rising inflation.

After thirty years of theoretical encounters, macroeconomic theories for unemployment and inflation still dominated the collective awareness of policymakers and academics in the 1990s. The fundamental link between unemployment and inflation was too important to ignore (Phillips, 1958). Consequently, most macroeconomic criticisms of the Phillips Curve added additional components to the essential connection. In this regard, the fight to preserve the Phillips Curve was a success.

Nonetheless, the success came at a high price as modifications to the Phillips Curve were not enough, and the new changes were continuously required to suit changing reality. The structure of the alterations brought the most catastrophic harm (Yasmin et al., 2019). The frequent amplification of the Phillips Curve undermined the integrity of macroeconomics. Macroeconomists used obstacles like informational and structural defects and exogenous shocks beyond the macroeconomic system to justify breaking the Phillips Curve.

The Original Philips Curve

Phillips produced empirical research investigating the relationship between inflation and unemployment in Great Britain from 1861 to 1957. He developed a nonlinear model that negatively related wage inflation to unemployment rates between 1861 and 1913. He then proved how the model could describe the link between 1913 and 1957 (Shaari et al., 2018). According to the stable connection, 5.5 percent of unemployment was related to zero wage inflation (Nar, 2021). Once unemployment was higher than this level, nominal earnings fell somewhat. When unemployment fell below 5.5 percent, the pace of wage inflation grew significantly. Philips also argued that a drop in unemployment contributed to wage-related inflation, which was a significant factor in income. The rising employment implied adequate disposable income, which increased the individual’s purchasing parity. Similarly, Philips demonstrated that a drop in unemployment negatively correlated with wage-related inflation (Zhang & Si, 2018). Therefore, Phillips’ findings were rapidly accepted because they gave good evidence for the operation of competitive market dynamics, notably how prices responded to excess demand or surplus supply.

As a result, if the unemployment rate and its first derivatives are viewed as two separate proxies for labor-market surplus supply, they should be negatively connected to the changes in salaries. The unemployment rate might explain wage inflation besides the negatively sloping Phillips Curve, and the change frequency in unemployment could describe the counter-clockwise circles around it. A surplus money supply in the economy leads to a boost in inflation as it is associated with high wages (Belz et al., 2020). Considerably, the wage rate plays a crucial role in determining the level of unemployment within the economy while acting as a significant driver of inflation.

Importance of the Curve

The Phillips Curve is critical to the Federal Reserve’s rate of interest decision-making. The Fed aims to strive for maximum long-term price stability and employment. Since the monetary policy lags, the Fed must be aware of what inflation will be like in the future and not just today. The Phillips Curve is a method the Fed uses to estimate inflation when the unemployment rate lowers, as it has in recent times. Consequently, the viability of the curve lies in its predictability as adopted by the federal government to devise measures to check inflation levels. Furthermore, the curve plays a fundamental role in enabling the forecast and prediction of inflation, thus making effective adjustments to curb it. The modern-day U.S. economy has experienced both low unemployment levels while maintaining inflation at its lowest levels possible.

Short-Run and Long-Run Macroeconomic Analysis

Macroeconomic analysis is separated into two parts: long-run and short-run. This division originated due to the 1930s Great Depression which needed an examination of macroeconomic behavior to enable policymakers to comprehend and handle short-run patterns (Lightener, 2020). From 1929 through 1939, the United States experienced a severe economic crisis known as the Great Depression. In macroeconomics, the contrast between the short-run and the long-run refers to the time intervals for which commodities and their accompanying prices may undergo modification. The short run is often characterized as the time horizon during which salaries and input prices are rigid, and the long run is regarded as the time horizon during which the input prices have the opportunity to adjust. In the short run, an inverse relationship will mainly be experienced, while in the long run, there will be no fundamental trade-off due to the stabilization of the Philips curve (Sayeed et al., 2019). To elaborate, higher inflation would result in larger output within the economy, which is not the case in the short run.

Measuring the Costs

The long run is frequently described as the time range in which no buried fixed costs exist. In general, constant costs are the ones that do not fluctuate when the amount of output varies (Lightener, 2020). Furthermore, sunk costs are the ones that cannot be recovered once they have been paid. If the company signed a contract for office space, a contract on a company office would be a sunken expenditure. Moreover, it would be a set cost since, once the level of the operations is determined, the corporation does not require an extra incremental unit of capital for each increased unit of output produced.

Price levels and earnings do not react to current economic conditions in the short run. Expectations must alter in the long term to match real-world economic conditions. This slow-to-respond pricing is known as sticky prices because short-run equilibrium may not be coherent with long-run equilibrium (Shaari et al., 2018). The economy’s overall production is doubtful to attain its full potential. Prices and earnings are considered adjustable in the long run; thus, employment will grow and decrease until it reaches its natural level.

Macroeconomic market prices are expected to be sensitive to changes in the supply and demand curve in the long term. The long term is also the era during which most firms plan their future activity. It involves entering or exiting a market, purchasing facilities and equipment for manufacturing, or transitioning to a business strategy based on developing technologies. Businesses can use a mix of short-term and long-term assessments to forecast what is optimal for the organization, typically pursuing good long-run answers while considering the short-run consequences.

The U.S. Unemployment and Inflation Data and the Short-Run Phillips Curve

Compared to the previous two decades, recent U.S. inflation data and unemployment do not support the short-run Phillips curve. According to the short-term Philips curve, there is an inverse link between the degree of inflation and the unemployment rate (Shaari et al., 2018). When just data from 1988 to 2018 are examined, the researchers find less proof for a consistent price Phillips curve (Hooper et al., 2020). For instance, the nonlinear and linear inclinations are also close to zero, supporting the widely held belief that the flattening of the Phillips curve economic activity will have an insignificant impact on inflation. As a result, the salary Phillips curve is significantly more durable and remains visible over this time.

Determining whether or not there is a link between the two parameters is critical for monetary policymaking. During the first twenty years, inflation was often more significant when unemployment was less, and inflation was usually lower when the rate of unemployment was stronger (Lightener, 2020). The association between the two factors appears to be less evident in recent decades. Over this period, the Federal Reserve has been considerably more careful in targeting inflation, resulting in lower, steadier inflation in the United States. There is no longer a link between the labor market’s performance and inflation.

Another significant recent change is that price inflation appears to be less sensitive to resource slack. The Phillips curve for short-run prices appears to have flattened, reflecting a shift in the dynamic link between employment and inflation (Shaari et al., 2018). Weighing the utility of the Phillips curve is important because it may result in differing monetary policy suggestions for best meeting the Federal Reserve’s dual mission of maximum sustained employment and stable prices. If one policymaker believes that reduced unemployment is more strongly linked to greater inflation, they may wish to see higher interest rates during periods of low unemployment. It is compared to the other financial policymaker that does not feel the two factors have a tight relationship.

For many years, monetary officials and financial market players in the United States have depended on the Phillips curve to steer monetary policy. Considering his belief that this link has been subdivided during the previous two decades, policymakers must turn elsewhere to determine the most likely inflationary path. It is a lesson that the economy can endure considerably less unemployment than we previously assumed without experiencing problematic inflation levels.

Data Disapproves the Philips Curve

The historical link between inflation and unemployment seems to have shifted in recent years. Although the unemployment rate has dropped to a 17-year record low, inflation and wage growth have slowed (Allegretto, 2018). Nevertheless, the impact of lack of employment on inflation is now less than half, and it has practically gone since 2008. The recent poor tradeoff between unemployment and inflation has caused some to doubt whether the Phillips Curve is still in effect. Some claim that firms no longer boost pay due to a restricted labor market; thus, low unemployment has little effect on inflation.

Since the 1980s, inflation anticipations have mainly been modest and constant around the Federal Reserve’s two percent inflation objective. The stabilizing of inflation expectations may be why the Phillips Curve dilemma looks weaker over time (Bahrami et al., 2020). If everybody anticipates inflation to remain at two percent eternally because they trust the Fed, then price movements in reaction to unemployment may be suppressed. According to monetary authorities, the classic Phillips Curve is now a poor inflation forecast.

Philip’s Curve is Useful Today

The underlying issue is that the Phillips curve incorrectly interprets an alleged link between inflation and unemployment as a causal relationship. Changes in consumer spending drive changes in inflation and unemployment. The Phillips Curve could be on the verge of a vengeful revival (Phillips, 1958). In April, inflation reached 8.3 percent, whereas the jobless rate was at 3.6 percent, prompting some analysts to reconsider the relationship between a sizzling job market and scorching pricing in the wake of a worldwide epidemic. Many economists feel that the Phillips curve is a beneficial connection since unemployment and inflation are both essential indicators of economic success.

Recommendation on Policy

The government can use a contractionary fiscal policy to tackle inflation. This situation may boost taxes while decreasing government expenditure to reduce overall spending. According to economists, monetary policy is successful in lowering inflation. A contractionary policy aims to shrink an economy’s money supply by raising interest rates. It contributes to slower economic development by increasing the cost of credit, which affects consumer and company expenditure. Rising interest rates on treasury bonds also limit growth by encouraging investors and banks to purchase Treasuries that offer a fixed rate of return rather than risky equity investments that benefit from low-interest rates. Short-term interest rates, reserve requests, and open market practices are the primary tools of financial regulation. A contractionary monetary policy employs various methods, such as raising short-term interest rates, increasing reserve requirements, and expanding open market activities.


In conclusion, the paper has elaborated on the relationship between unemployment and inflation in the U.S. economy. In addition, it has focused on the improvements in labor market infrastructure and political policy that make it easier to identify and hire suitable individuals, such as expanded job experience or apprenticeship programs, which might decrease the natural unemployment rate. A variety of measures may enhance the productivity growth rate and hence reduce the natural level of unemployment: more government spending on infrastructure, less government control of the business, and increased incentives for R&D. Furthermore, more vigorous governmental interventions to assist individuals in finding work during recessions may help to avert long-term unemployment increases and rises in the average rate of unemployment.


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