Economics - Long run & short run Production


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Economics - Long run & short run Production

  1. 1. EconomicsShort Run and Long Run ProductionAs part of our introduction to the theory of the firm, we first consider the nature of production ofdifferent goods and services in the short and long run.The concept of a production functionThe production function is a mathematical expression which relates the quantity of factor inputs tothe quantity of outputs that result. We make use of three measures of production / productivity. • Total product is simply the total output that is generated from the factors of production employed by a business. In most manufacturing industries such as motor vehicles, freezers and DVD players, it is straightforward to measure the volume of production from labour and capital inputs that are used. But in many service or knowledge-based industries, where much of the output is “intangible” or perhaps weightless we find it harder to measure productivity • Average product is the total output divided by the number of units of the variable factor of production employed (e.g. output per worker employed or output per unit of capital employed) • Marginal product is the change in total product when an additional unit of the variable factor of production is employed. For example marginal product would measure the change in output that comes from increasing the employment of labour by one person, or by adding one more machine to the production process in the short run.The Short Run Production FunctionThe short run is defined in economics as a period of time where at least one factor of production isassumed to be in fixed supply i.e. it cannot be changed. We normally assume that the quantity ofcapital inputs (e.g. plant and machinery) is fixed and that production can be altered by suppliersthrough changing the demand for variable inputs such as labour, components, raw materials and energyinputs. Often the amount of land available for production is also fixed.The time periods used in textbook economics are somewhat arbitrary because they differ from industryto industry. The short run for the electricity generation industry or the telecommunications sectorvaries from that appropriate for newspaper and magazine publishing and small-scale production offoodstuffs and beverages. Much depends on the time scale that permits a business to alter all of theinputs that it can bring to production.In the short run, the law of diminishing returns states that as we add more units of a variable input(i.e. labour or raw materials) to fixed amounts of land and capital, the change in total output will atfirst rise and then fall. Diminishing returns to labour occurs when marginal product of labour starts tofall. This means that total output will still be rising – but increasing at a decreasing rate as moreworkers are employed. As we shall see in the following numerical example, eventually a decline inmarginal product leads to a fall in average product.What happens to marginal product is linked directly to the productivity of each extra workeremployed. At low levels of labour input, the fixed factors of production - land and capital, tend tobe under-utilized which means that each additional worker will have plenty of capital to use and, as aresult, marginal product may rise. Beyond a certain point however, the fixed factors of production
  2. 2. become scarcer and new workers will not have as much capital to work with so that the capital inputbecomes diluted among a larger workforce.As a result, the marginal productivity of each worker tends to fall – this is known as the principle ofdiminishing returns.An example of the concept of diminishing returns is shown below. We assume that there is a fixedsupply of capital (e.g. 20 units) available in the production process to which extra units of labour areadded from one person through to eleven. • Initially the marginal product of labour is rising. • It peaks when the sixth worked is employed when the marginal product is 29. • Marginal product then starts to fall. Total output is still increasing as we add more labour, but at a slower rate. At this point the short run production demonstrates diminishing returns.The Law of Diminishing Returns Capital Input Labour Input Total Output Marginal Product Average Product of Labour 20 1 5 5 20 2 16 11 8 20 3 30 14 10 20 4 56 26 14 20 5 85 28 17 20 6 114 29 19 20 7 140 26 20 20 8 160 20 20 20 9 171 11 19 20 10 180 9 18 20 11 187 7 17Average product will continue to rise as long as the marginal product is greater than the average – forexample when the seventh worker is added the marginal gain in output is 26 and this drags the averageup from 19 to 20 units. Once marginal product is below the average as it is with the ninth workeremployed (where marginal product is only 11) then the average will decline.
  3. 3. This marginal-average relationship is important to understanding the nature of short run cost curves.It is worth going through this again to make sure that you understand it.Criticisms of the Law of Diminishing ReturnsHow realistic is this notion of diminishing returns? Surely ambitious and successful businesses do whatthey can to avoid such a problem emerging.It is now widely recognised that the effects of globalisation, and in particular the ability of trans-national corporations to source their factor inputs from more than one country and engage in rapidtransfers of business technology and other information, makes the concept of diminishing returns lessrelevant in the real world of business. You may have read about the expansion of “out-sourcing” as ameans for a business to cut their costs and make their production processes as flexible as possible.In many industries as a business expands, it is more likely to experience increasing returns. After all,why should a multinational business spend huge sums on expensive research and development andinvestment in capital machinery if a business cannot extract increasing returns and lower unit costs ofproduction from these extra inputs?Long run production - returns to scaleIn the long run, all factors of production are variable. How the output of a business responds to achange in factor inputs is called returns to scale. • Increasing returns to scale occur when the % change in output > % change in inputs • Decreasing returns to scale occur when the % change in output < % change in inputs • Constant returns to scale occur when the % change in output = % change in inputs •A numerical example of long run returns to scale
  4. 4. Units of Units of Total % Change in % Change in Returns to ScaleCapital Labour Output Inputs Output20 150 300040 300 7500 100 150 Increasing60 450 12000 50 60 Increasing80 600 16000 33 33 Constant100 750 18000 25 13 DecreasingIn the example above, we increase the inputs of capital and labour by the same proportion each time.We then compare the % change in output that comes from a given % change in inputs. • In our example when we double the factor inputs from (150L + 20K) to (300L + 40K) then the percentage change in output is 150% - there are increasing returns to scale. • In contrast, when the scale of production is changed from (600L + 80K0 to (750L + 100K) then the percentage change in output (13%) is less than the change in inputs (25%) implying a situation of decreasing returns to scale.As we shall see a later, the nature of the returns to scale affects the shape of a business’s long runaverage cost curve.The effect of an increase in labour productivity at all levels of employmentProductivity may have been increased through the effects of technological change; improvedincentives; better management or the effects of work-related training which boosts the skills of theemployed labour force.
  5. 5. The length of time required for the long run varies from sector to sector. In the nuclear powerindustry for example, it can take many years to commission new nuclear power plant and capacity. This is something the UK government has to consider as it reviews our future sources of energy.
  6. 6. AS Markets & Market SystemsTheory of SupplyIn this chapter we turn our attention to the decisions that producers make about how much of aproduct to supply to a market at any given price. Once we have understood the basics of supply, wecan they put supply and demand together to consider the determination of equilibrium prices in amarket.Definition of SupplySupply is defined as the quantity of a product that a producer is willing and able to supply onto themarket at a given price in a given time period.Note: Throughout this study companion, the terms firm, business, producer and seller have the samemeaning.The basic law of supply is that as the price of a commodity rises, so producers expand their supplyonto the market. A supply curve shows a relationship between price and quantity a firm is willing andable to sell.
  7. 7. A supply curve is drawn assuming ceteris paribus - ie that all factors influencing supply are being heldconstant except price. If the price of the good varies, we move along a supply curve. In the diagramabove, as the price rises from P1 to P2 there is an expansion of supply. If the market price falls fromP1 to P3 there would be a contraction of supply in the market. Businesses are responding to pricesignals when making their output decisions.Explaining the Law of SupplyThere are three main reasons why supply curves for most products are drawn as sloping upwards fromleft to right giving a positive relationship between the market price and quantity supplied: 1. The profit motive: When the market price rises (for example after an increase in consumer demand), it becomes more profitable for businesses to increase their output. Higher prices send signals to firms that they can increase their profits by satisfying demand in the market. 2. Production and costs: When output expands, a firm’s production costs rise, therefore a higher price is needed to justify the extra output and cover these extra costs of production. 3. New entrants coming into the market: Higher prices may create an incentive for other businesses to enter the market leading to an increase in supply.Shifts in the Supply CurveThe supply curve can shift position. If the supply curve shifts to the right (from S1 to S2) this is anincrease in supply; more is provided for sale at each price. If the supply curve moves inwards from S1
  8. 8. to S3, there is a decrease in supply meaning that less will be supplied at each price.Changes in the costs of productionLower costs of production mean that a business can supply more at each price. For example amagazine publishing company might see a reduction in the cost of its imported paper and inks. A carmanufacturer might benefit from a stronger exchange rate because the cost of components and newtechnology bought from overseas becomes lower. These cost savings can then be passed throughthe supply chain to wholesalers and retailers and may result in lower market prices for consumers.Conversely, if the costs of production increase, for example following a rise in the price of rawmaterials or a firm having to pay higher wages to its workers, then businesses cannot supply as much atthe same price and this will cause an inward shift of the supply curve.A fall in the exchange rate causes an increase in the prices of imported components and raw materialsand will (other factors remaining constant) lead to a decrease in supply in a number of differentmarkets and industries. For example if the pounds falls by 10% against the Euro, then it becomes moreexpensive for British car manufacturers to import their rubber and glass from Western Europeansuppliers, and higher prices for paints imported from Eastern Europe.Changes in production technology
  9. 9. Production technologies can change quickly and in industries where technological change is rapid wesee increases in supply and lower prices for the consumer.Government taxes and subsidies
  10. 10. Changes in climateFor commodities such as coffee, oranges and wheat, the effect of climatic conditions can exert agreat influence on market supply. Favorable weather will produce a bumper harvest and will increasesupply. Unfavorable weather conditions will lead to a poorer harvest, lower yields and therefore adecrease in supply.Changes in climate can therefore have an effect on prices for agricultural goods such as coffee, tea andcocoa. Because these commodities are often used as ingredients in the production of other products, achange in the supply of one can affect the supply and price of another product. Higher coffee prices forexample can lead to an increase in the price of coffee-flavored cakes. And higher banana prices as wesee in the article below, will feed through to increased prices for banana smoothies in shops and cafes.Cyclone destroys the Australian banana crop and sends prices soaringCyclone Larry has devastated Australias banana industry, destroying fruit worth $300 million andleaving up to 4,000 people out of work. Australians now face a shortage of bananas and likely pricerises after the cyclone tore through the heart of the nations biggest growing region. Queenslandproduces about 95 per cent of Australias bananas. The storm ruined 200,000 tones of fruit and marketsupply shortages will be severe because Australia does not allow banana imports because of the bio-security risks in doing so. Bananas are grown throughout the year in north Queensland, with the fruithaving a growing cycle of around two months.
  11. 11. Source: Adapted from news reports, April 2006Change in the prices of a substitute in productionA substitute in production is a product that could have been produced using the same resources. Takethe example of barley. An increase in the price of wheat makes wheat growing more financiallyattractive. The profit motive may cause farmers to grow more wheat rather than barley.The number of producers in the market and their objectivesThe number of sellers (businesses) in an industry affects market supply. When new businesses enter amarket, supply increases causing downward pressure on price.Competitive SupplyGoods and services in competitive supply are alternative products that a business could make with itsfactor resources of land, labour and capital. For example a farmer can plant potatoes or maize. Farmers can change their crops if there are sizeable changes in market prices and if expectations of future price movements also change.
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