The branch of economics that analyzes the market behavior of individual consumers and firms in an attempt to understand the decision-making process of firms and households. It is concerned with the interaction between individual buyers and sellers and the factors that influence the choices made by buyers and sellers. In particular, microeconomics focuses on patterns of supply and demand and the determination of price and output in individual markets (e.g. coffee industry).
The field of economics is broken down into two distinct areas of study: microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics looks at the smaller picture and focuses more on basic theories of supply and demand and how individual businesses decide how much of something to produce and how much to charge for it. People who have any desire to start their own business or who want to learn the rationale behind the pricing of particular products and services would be more interested in this area.
on the other hand, looks at the big picture (hence "macro"). It focuses on the national economy as a whole and provides a basic knowledge of how things work in the business world. For example, people who study this branch of economics would be able to interpret the latest Gross Domestic Product figures or explain why a 6% rate of unemployment is not necessarily a bad thing. Thus, for an overall perspective of how the entire economy works, you need to have an understanding of economics at both the micro and macro levels.
The field of economics that studies the behavior of the aggregate economy. Macroeconomics examines economy-wide phenomena such as changes in unemployment, national income, rate of growth, gross domestic product, inflation and price levels.
Macroeconomics is focused on the movement and trends in the economy as a whole, while in microeconomics the focus is placed on factors that affect the decisions made by firms and individuals. The factors that are studied by macro and micro will often influence each other, such as the current level of unemployment in the economy as a whole will affect the supply of workers which an oil company can hire from, for example.
Macro- and microeconomics, and their wide array of underlying concepts, have been the subject of a great deal of writings. The field of study is vast; here is a brief summary of what each covers:
Microeconomics is the study of decisions that people and businesses make regarding the allocation of resources and prices of goods and services. This means also taking into account taxes and regulations created by governments. Microeconomics focuses on supply and demand and other forces that determine the price levels seen in the economy. For example, microeconomics would look at how a specific company could maximize it's production and capacity so it could lower prices and better compete in its industry. (Find out more about microeconomics in Understanding Microeconomics.)
Macroeconomics, on the other hand, is the field of economics that studies the behavior of the economy as a whole and not just on specific companies, but entire industries and economies. This looks at economy-wide phenomena, such as Gross National Product (GDP) and how it is affected by changes in unemployment, national income, rate of growth, and price levels. For example, macroeconomics would look at how an increase/decrease in net exports would affect a nation's capital account or how GDP would be affected by unemployment rate. (To keep reading on this subject, see Macroeconomic Analysis.)
While these two studies of economics appear to be different, they are actually interdependent and complement one another since there are many overlapping issues between the two fields. For example, increased inflation (macro effect) would cause the price of raw materials to increase for companies and in turn affect the end product's price charged to the public.
The bottom line is that microeconomics takes a bottoms-up approach to analyzing the economy while macroeconomics takes a top-down approach. Regardless, both micro- and macroeconomics provide fundamental tools for any finance professional and should be studied together in order to fully understand how companies operate and earn revenues and thus, how an entire economy is managed and sustained.