Start Up: Hockey Players Frozen Out

On October 30, 2004, Columbus Blue Jackets’ center Todd Marchant would ordinarily have been getting ready to open the 2004–2005 National Hockey League (NHL) season before a packed house in a game against the Dallas Stars in Dallas. Instead, he was home and devoting his season to coaching his six-year-old daughter’s hockey team.

Monopsony Equilibrium and the Marginal Decision Rule

The marginal decision rule, as it applies to a firm’s use of factors, calls for the firm to add more units of a factor up to the point that the factor’s MRP is equal to its MFC. Figure 14.3 illustrates this solution for a firm that is the only buyer of labor in a particular market.

Figure 14.3. Monopsony Equilibrium. Given the supply curve for labor, S, and the marginal factor cost curve, MFC, the monopsony firm will select the quantity of labor at which the MRP of labor equals its MFC. It thus uses Lm units of labor (determined by at the intersection of MRP and MFC) and pays a wage of Wm per unit (the wage is taken from the supply curve at which Lm units of labor are available). The quantity of labor used by the monopsony firm is less than would be used in a competitive market (Lc); the wage paid, Wm, is lower than would be paid in a competitive labor market.

The firm faces the supply curve for labor, S, and the marginal factor cost curve for labor, MFC. The profit-maximizing quantity is determined by the intersection of the MRP and MFC curves—the firm will hire Lunits of labor. The wage at which the firm can obtain Lunits of labor is given by the supply curve for labor; it is Wm. Labor receives a wage that is less than its MRP.

If the monopsony firm was broken up into a large number of small firms and all other conditions in the market remained unchanged, then the sum of the MRP curves for individual firms would be the market demand for labor. The equilibrium wage would be Wc, and the quantity of labor demanded would be Lc. Thus, compared to a competitive market, a monopsony solution generates a lower factor price and a smaller quantity of the factor demanded.