Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services.
Economists typically do the following:
Economists apply economic analysis to issues within a variety of fields, such as education, health, development, and the environment. Some economists study the cost of products, healthcare, or energy. Others examine employment levels, business cycles, or exchange rates. Still others analyze the effect of taxes, inflation, or interest rates.
Economists often study historical trends and use them to make forecasts. They research and analyze data using a variety of software programs, including spreadsheets, statistical analysis, and database management programs.
More than half of all economists work in federal, state, and local government. Federal government economists collect and analyze data about the U.S. economy. They also project spending needs and inform policy makers on the economic impact of laws and regulations.
Many economists work for corporations and help them understand how the economy will affect their business. Specifically, economists may analyze issues such as consumer demand and sales to help a company maximize its profits.
Economists also work for research firms and think tanks, where they study and analyze a variety of economic issues. Their analyses and forecasts are frequently published in newspapers and journal articles.
Some economists work abroad for companies with major international operations and for international organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations.
Many people with an economics background become professors or teachers. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.
The following are examples of common economist specialties:
Econometricians develop models and use mathematical analyses to test economic relationships. They use techniques such as calculus, game theory, and regression analysis to explain economic facts or trends in all areas of economics.
Financial economists analyze savings, investments, and risk. They also study financial markets and financial institutions.
Industrial organization economists study how companies within an industry are organized and how they compete. They also examine how antitrust laws, which regulate attempts by companies to restrict competition, affect markets.
International economists study international trade and the impact of globalization. They also examine global financial markets and exchange rates.
Labor economists study the supply of workers and the demand for labor by employers. Specifically, they research employment levels and how wages are set. They also analyze the effects of labor-related policies—such as minimum wage laws—and institutions, such as unions.
Macroeconomists and monetary economists examine the economy as a whole. They may research trends related to unemployment, inflation, and economic growth. They also study fiscal and monetary policies, which examine the effect of the money supply and interest rates on the economy.
Microeconomists study the supply and demand decisions of individuals and firms. For example, they may determine the quantity of products consumers will demand at a particular price.
Public finance economists study the role of the government in the economy. Specifically, they may analyze the effects of tax cuts, budget deficits, and welfare policies.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition