Phillips Curve

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Phillips Curve

A graph that supposedly shows the relationship between inflation and unemployment. It is conjectured that there is a simple trade-off between inflation and unemployment (high inflation and low unemployment, and low inflation and high unemployment). Named after A.W. Phillips. Obviously, the relation between these important macroeconomic variables is more complicated than this simple graph would suggest. For a modern treatment, see work of Robert Lucas.

Phillips Curve

A curve postulating an inverse relationship between inflation and unemployment. That is, the Phillips curve theorizes that when inflation is low, unemployment is high and vice versa. This was a predominant theory for much of the mid-20th century until stagflation (high unemployment and high inflation) began to occur in the 1970s. Few economists use the Phillips curve today though it is a component in Gordon's triangle model.
Phillips curveclick for a larger image
Fig. 142 Phillips curve.

Phillips curve

a curve depicting an empirical observation (based on the work of the British economist A. W. Phillips) of the relationship between the level of UNEMPLOYMENT and the rate of change of MONEY WAGES and, by inference, the rate of change of prices (INFLATION). Fig. 142 shows the rate of change of money wages/rate of inflation on the vertical axis and the rate of unemployment on the horizontal axis. The figure depicts an initial Phillips curve 1. Point X, where the Phillips curve intersects the horizontal axis, is the rate of unemployment consistent with stable prices - the so-called ‘non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment’ (NAIRU), also referred to as the ‘NATURAL RATE OF UNEMPLOYMENT’. At levels of unemployment below point X, the inflation rate then starts to increase. Let us assume that initially the current rate of unemployment is A and that the current rate of inflation is C.

A fall in unemployment (from A to B in Fig. 142), resulting from an increase in the level of AGGREGATE DEMAND, brings about an acceleration in the rate of increase of money wages (from C to D), reflecting employers’ greater willingness to grant wage increases as the demand for their products expands. By contrast, rising unemployment and falling demand lead to a slowing down in the rate of increase of money wages. The ‘curve’ thus suggests that there is an inverse relationship (a ‘trade-off) between unemployment and DEMAND-PULL INFLATION. However, while there was strong empirical support for the Phillips curve relationship in the past, in the 1980s high unemployment and high inflation tended to co-exist (see STAGFLATION). This led to attempts to reformulate the Phillips curve to allow, for example, for the effect of price expectations on money wage increases. See EXPECTATIONS-ADJUSTED/AUGMENTED PHILLIPS CURVE.

More recently, the UK economy has experienced both lower unemployment and lower inflation, i.e. the Phillips curve has shifted inwards towards the origin and become less steep (Phillips curve 2 in Fig. 142). The explanation for this, it is suggested, is because of greater labour market flexibility, which has reduced ‘the natural rate of unemployment’ (to point Y in the figure) while a more stable monetary climate, through the government's commitment to an inflation rate target of no more than 2%, has reduced inflationary expectations. See OPTIMIZING,FIXED TARGETS, NEW AND OLD PARADIGM ECONOMICS.

References in periodicals archive ?
Philips curves, expectations of inflation and optimal unemployment over time, Economica 34(135): 254-281.
By failing to make economics seem even slightly relevant, most of the knowledge I picked up was limited to study of the now-discredited Philips curve, convoluted flow diagrams explaining how Government spending and tax interrelated, and the excitingworl d of microeconomic theory.

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