Normal Profit: Definition, Examples & Significance


Normal profit is an essential economic concept that evaluates a business’s profitability, taking into account both explicit and implicit costs. It differs from accounting profit, which neglects implicit costs. This article delves into the definition of normal profit, its relation to economic profit, and its significance in both micro and macroeconomics. We’ll explore examples, applications, and special considerations to provide a comprehensive understanding of this crucial financial metric.

Understanding normal profit

Normal profit, a fundamental concept in economics, assesses a company’s profitability by considering all costs, including both explicit and implicit expenses. While accounting profit is the profit reported on a company’s financial statements, normal profit and economic profit provide deeper insights, particularly when dealing with substantial implicit costs.

Economic and normal profit

Economic profit is calculated by subtracting both explicit and implicit costs from revenues:

Economic profit = Revenues – Explicit costs – Implicit costs

Normal profit, on the other hand, occurs when economic profit equals zero, meaning that total revenues are equal to explicit and implicit costs:

Total revenue – Explicit cost – Implicit cost = 0

Implicit costs, often referred to as opportunity costs, play a significant role in economic and normal profit calculations. Normal profit represents the point where all resources are efficiently utilized and cannot generate better returns elsewhere. Unlike accounting profit, normal profit considers the opportunity costs specific to a particular business.

When calculating economic and normal profit, it’s vital to distinguish between explicit and implicit costs. Explicit costs are easily quantifiable and involve expenses directly tied to transactions. Examples include raw materials, labor, rent, and owner compensation. Implicit costs, in contrast, are associated with forgone opportunities, making them challenging to quantify. These costs arise when a business chooses one course of action over another, leading to potential income loss. Examples include rental income foregone for business property use or the difference in projected gains from different investment opportunities.

Example of normal profit

Let’s illustrate normal profit with an example: Suzie owns a bagel shop called Suzie’s Bagels, generating $150,000 in annual revenue. Suzie pays her two employees $20,000 each per year and takes a $40,000 annual salary. She also incurs $20,000 in rent and $30,000 for ingredients and supplies. After consulting her financial advisor, Suzie learns that her business’s estimated opportunity cost of operating full-time is $20,000 annually.

Calculating her average annual explicit costs:

Average annual explicit costs = $20,000 (employee 1) + $20,000 (employee 2) + $40,000 (Suzie’s salary) + $20,000 (rent) + $30,000 (ingredients) = $130,000

This results in an accounting profit before taxes of $20,000. When factoring in her average annual implicit costs of $20,000, her total costs amount to $150,000 ($130,000 + $20,000). Suzie observes that her total costs align with her total revenues, indicating that her bagel shop is in a state of normal profit.

Normal profit in macroeconomics

The concept of normal profit extends beyond individual businesses. In macroeconomics, it applies to entire industries or markets. Normal profit is expected in conditions of perfect competition and economic equilibrium. Competition drives economic profit to zero, making it a vital metric for understanding industry-wide profitability.

When firms achieve economic profit, it may attract new entrants to the market, leading to increased product supply and price stabilization. Eventually, an industry reaches a state of normal profit as prices stabilize and profits decrease. Companies striving for economic profit may aim to improve their market position, operational efficiency, or cost-cutting efforts, collectively influencing industry-wide profitability.

Conversely, economic losses within an industry often prompt firms to exit. Reduced competition allows remaining companies to move toward achieving normal profit.

Economic profit is more likely in monopoly scenarios, where a single company can dictate prices and quantity. Government intervention, such as antitrust laws, aims to promote market competition, preventing monopolies from stifling new entrants and driving out competition.

Applications of normal profit

Normal profit plays a crucial role in various contexts:

Business expansion

Business owners use normal profit to evaluate the profitability of potential ventures. For instance, Suzie could assess the impact of expanding her bagel shop to include sandwiches on her revenue, cost structure, and opportunity costs. By examining accounting, normal, and economic profits, she can make an informed decision about expanding her business.

Macroeconomic analysis

In macroeconomics, normal profit metrics help assess whether an industry or sector is improving or declining. Economists analyze these metrics to understand industry-wide profitability, market structures, and antitrust concerns. Normal profit indicators also gauge the presence of monopolies or oligopolies, prompting legislative actions to foster competition.

Implicit costs

Implicit costs used in normal profit calculations encompass various opportunity costs, including foregone rental income, salary income, or investment gains. These costs are essential considerations for businesses evaluating profitability comprehensively.

Special considerations

It’s crucial to recognize that normal profit doesn’t imply a lack of earnings. Because it includes opportunity costs, a business can operate with zero economic profit yet still achieve a normal profit, even with significant accounting profit.

Implicit cost estimation can be challenging and may introduce uncertainty into normal profit calculations. New opportunity costs or unforeseen risks can affect the accuracy and reliability of such calculations, especially when assessing expansion prospects.

Examples of normal profit in different industries

In various industries, the concept of normal profit manifests differently. Let’s explore some industry-specific examples to gain a deeper understanding:

Retail industry

In the retail sector, normal profit may be observed when a store’s revenue matches its explicit costs, including expenses such as rent, employee wages, and inventory. Implicit costs could include the opportunity cost of using the retail space for other purposes. When a retail store operates with a normal profit, it means it’s covering all its costs but not generating excess economic profit.

Technology startups

For technology startups, normal profit analysis is crucial. Suppose a tech

startup raises funds from investors and generates significant revenue from its products or services. However, it may have substantial implicit costs in the form of foregone salaries, as employees often accept lower pay in exchange for stock options. If the economic profit is zero, the startup is in a state of normal profit, indicating that its operations are self-sustaining, but it’s not generating additional wealth beyond covering all costs.

The role of normal profit in investment decisions

Normal profit plays a vital role in investment evaluations and decisions. When investors assess the profitability of potential investments, they consider the concept of normal profit. Here’s how it factors into investment analysis:

Stock market investments

Investors evaluating stocks look at a company’s financial performance, including its ability to generate economic profit. A company consistently operating with zero economic profit (normal profit) may not be as attractive to investors seeking substantial returns. However, it may still be an appealing investment if it provides stable, consistent returns, even if they are not exceptionally high.

Real estate investments

In the real estate market, normal profit is relevant when assessing rental properties. Property investors calculate explicit costs like mortgage payments, property management fees, and maintenance expenses. Implicit costs can include the opportunity cost of investing in other assets. An investment property that generates a normal profit is one that covers all expenses but may not yield extraordinary returns. Investors often weigh the stability of such investments against the potential for higher returns in riskier ventures.

The influence of normal profit on market dynamics

Normal profit is not just a static metric; it also influences market dynamics. Understanding how normal profit impacts competition and market behavior is essential:

Perfect competition

In perfectly competitive markets, where many firms offer identical products or services, normal profit is a long-term equilibrium. When firms in such markets achieve economic profit, it attracts new entrants, increasing supply and lowering prices. This process continues until economic profit reaches zero (normal profit), ensuring consumers benefit from competitive prices.

Monopoly and oligopoly

In contrast, monopolies and oligopolies can maintain economic profit because they have significant market power. They can set prices above costs, generating economic profit over the long term. Governments often intervene in such situations to promote competition and reduce economic profit, aiming to benefit consumers.


Normal profit is a vital economic concept that evaluates a business’s profitability by considering both explicit and implicit costs. It offers insights beyond accounting profit and plays a significant role in business decisions and macroeconomic analysis. Understanding normal profit empowers business owners to make informed choices about expansion, while economists use it to gauge industry-wide profitability and market dynamics.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between normal profit and economic profit?

Normal profit occurs when a company’s total revenue equals its explicit and implicit costs, resulting in zero economic profit. In contrast, economic profit takes into account both explicit and implicit costs and can be positive, negative, or zero. Economic profit provides a more comprehensive view of a company’s financial performance, while normal profit is a specific state where revenues match all costs.

How do implicit costs impact normal profit?

Implicit costs, often referred to as opportunity costs, play a crucial role in normal profit calculations. These costs represent the potential income that a business foregoes when making certain decisions. When implicit costs are significant, they can lead to a state of normal profit even if accounting profit is high. Businesses need to consider these costs to make informed decisions about resource allocation.

Can a business have a normal profit while still making accounting profit?

Yes, it’s possible for a business to have a state of normal profit while making accounting profit. This situation arises when implicit costs, such as foregone opportunities, are substantial. Accounting profit focuses on explicit costs, while normal profit considers both explicit and implicit costs. Therefore, a business can generate accounting profit but still operate at a normal profit if opportunity costs offset the accounting profit.

Why is normal profit important in macroeconomics?

In macroeconomics, normal profit is essential for understanding the overall health of industries and markets. It serves as a benchmark for industry-wide profitability. When firms in an industry achieve economic profit, it can attract new entrants and lead to increased competition, eventually driving profits down to a state of normal profit. Economists use this concept to analyze market dynamics, competition, and the need for regulatory intervention.

What role does normal profit play in investment decisions?

Normal profit is a key consideration for investors when assessing potential investments. Companies consistently operating with zero economic profit (normal profit) may not offer the potential for substantial returns. However, they may still be attractive if they provide stable, consistent returns, which can be appealing to risk-averse investors. Understanding a company’s normal profit can help investors make informed decisions about their portfolios.

How can normal profit impact market dynamics in different market structures?

Normal profit has varying effects on market dynamics depending on the market structure. In perfectly competitive markets, it serves as a long-term equilibrium, ensuring that economic profit approaches zero over time. In contrast, monopolies and oligopolies can maintain economic profit due to their market power. Governments often intervene in these cases to promote competition and reduce economic profit, ultimately benefiting consumers by preventing price monopolies.

Key takeaways

  • Normal profit considers both explicit and implicit costs, offering a comprehensive view of profitability.
  • Economic profit equals zero in a state of normal profit, indicating that total revenues match explicit and implicit costs.
  • Implicit costs, or opportunity costs, are essential components of normal profit calculations and are difficult to quantify accurately.
  • Normal profit helps business owners assess the profitability of potential ventures and assists economists in evaluating industry-wide profitability and competition.
  • While normal profit may coexist with accounting profit, it takes into account opportunity costs and provides a more holistic perspective on profitability.
View article sources
  1. Corporate Profits – U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
  2. What are the sources of revenue for the federal government? – Tax Policy Center
  3. Personal Income – U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)