Introduction to the Macroeconomic Perspective


In thinking about the macroeconomy's overall health, it is useful to consider three primary goals: economic growth, low unemployment, and low inflation.

  • Economic growth ultimately determines the prevailing standard of living in a country. Economists measure growth by the percentage change in real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product. A growth rate of more than 3% is considered good.
  • Unemployment, as measured by the unemployment rate, is the percentage of people in the labor force who do not have a job. When people lack jobs, the economy is wasting a precious resource-labor, and the result is lower goods and services produced. Unemployment, however, is more than a statistic—it represents people’s livelihoods. While measured unemployment is unlikely to ever be zero, economists consider a measured unemployment rate of 5% or less low (good).
  • Inflation is a sustained increase in the overall level of prices, and is measured by the consumer price index. If many people face a situation where the prices that they pay for food, shelter, and healthcare are rising much faster than the wages they receive for their labor, there will be widespread unhappiness as their standard of living declines. For that reason, low inflation—an inflation rate of 1–2%—is a major goal.