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Difference Between Short Run and Long Run (With Table)

The terms ‘short run’ and ‘long run’ are referred to as time concepts and not periods in macroeconomics. The major difference between these two terms lies in the fact of increase or decrease in the quantity of the inputs. These two time-based parameters are used in many disciplines and applications.

Short Run vs Long Run

The main difference between the short run and the long run is that the short run is a period during which they fix the amount of at least one input while the quantities of the other inputs are variable. The long-run is a period during which we can change all input quantities.

In the short run, a firm can improve production by adding additional raw materials and labor, but not by building a new factory. All inputs, including factory spaces, are fixed in the short run, implying that there are no variable factors or restraints inhibiting growth in production output. 

The factory input is flexible in the long run, which implies that current firms are not bound and can adjust the size and number of factories they own, whereas new firms can establish or buy factories to produce more. To fulfill the rising demand, more companies will certainly enter the desired industry in the long run.

Comparison Table Between Short Run and Long Run

Parameters of ComparisonShort RunLong Run
DefinitionWe know the functional relationship between inputs and outputs of goods in a short period in the short run.We know the functional relationship between inputs and outputs of goods in a long period in the long run.
Production FunctionVariable proportion type of production function.Fixed production type of production function.
Capital to labor (Ratio)Shifts with the shifts in output.Doesn’t shift with the shifts in output.
Production ScaleThe production scale remains the same.The production scale changes with the output.
Fixed and variable factorsCapital is fixed, and labor is a variable.All factors are variable

What is Short Run?

There are three stages of production in economics. Because of the time constraints, at least one factor is fixed in short-run production processes. Three instances of short-run production processes in various sectors will be described with an example. In a fashion retail store, the location of the store does not vary in the short term. Many elements, however, can transform in a short period.

Retail directors and shop managers, for example, can quickly adjust the number of sales associates on staff and hire or fire employees. The input of personnel will cause a higher marginal return and more sales for the store in the early stages. In stage two, sales performance will continue to improve with each additional employee, but the marginal return will fall. Additional staff involvement will cause a negative marginal return in stage three.

The short-run is the time when some variables are variable and others are fixed, limiting entry or exit from the industry; it is also the time when these variables may not fully adjust. Short-run costs are compiled concurrently throughout the manufacturing process. Fixed costs don’t affect the costs that occurred in the short-run costs, only output affects the variable costs and revenues. Variable costs change in retort to production. 

Examples of variable costs: employee salary and raw material expenses, etc. Short-run costs rise or fall in response to variable costs and the rate of production. If a firm can successfully manage its short-term expenses over time, it will be more likely to meet its long-term costs and objectives.

What is Long Run?

The long-run is a conceptual concept in economics in which all economies have reached equilibrium and all pricing and supply have completely harmonized. The long-run distinctions with the short-run, in which there are restrictions and markets are not fully in balance. All the inputs related to the production cycle are variable. As a result, relative costs and the substitutability of production elements influence input selection.

As a result, the long-run cost is the lowest cost of producing a particular level of output after all factors of production have been adjusted. Assume a company has a production function Q with two inputs: labor (L) and capital (C).

i.e Q = f(L, C)

The firm’s dilemma now is how to choose in such a way that it must provide an output level 

Q* at the lowest possible cost.

TC = wL + RC (Total Cost)

This equation is known as the isocost line, and it depicts combinations of L and C that can be purchased at a price, with w and r denoting labor and capital costs, respectively. The average cost per unit can decrease as the volume of production increases, remain constant regardless of the number of units produced, or increase as we need to buy expensive materials or import them at a higher cost in the long-run process.

Main Differences Between Short Run and Long Run

  1. Short-run costs have both fixed and variable factors, whereas long-run costs have no fixed components.
  1. In the short run, because of the condensed duration, the general price level, contractual salaries, and expectations do not always adjust. In the long run, the overall price level, earnings, and probabilities react to the state of the economy.
  1. Short-run costs determine a firm’s ability to accomplish its future production and financial goals. Long-term costs of a firm estimate the realistic future production and financial goals.
  1. Short-run in macroeconomics is concerned with fluctuations, whereas long-run in macroeconomics is concerned with growth and long-run unemployment.
  1. Short-run studies, short-run policy intended to dampen business cycles. Long-run studies long-run policy intended to promote growth and long-run prosperity and reducing long-run unemployment. 


The reason the concepts of the short run and long run are so essential in economics is because their meanings vary. This holds valid in macroeconomics as well.

They are time concepts rather than exact dates. The capital stock is fixed in the short run, but it has adjusted to a new equilibrium level in the long run. Everything in between is a change period. Consider the economy’s transition to something new as a film rather than a series of images.

A short run or a period measured in a day, not decades, and it is like that of a man is unpredictable, wild, and consequential.

But in the long run, we are all dead. In the long run, a man no longer pays the taxes. In the long run, we are static and horizontal


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