Nominal rigidity, also known as price-stickiness or wage-stickiness, is a situation in which a nominal price is resistant to change. Complete nominal rigidity occurs when a price is fixed in nominal terms for a relevant period of time. For example, the price of a particular good might be fixed at $10 per unit for a year. Partial nominal rigidity occurs when a price may vary in nominal terms, but not as much as it would if perfectly flexible. For example, in a regulated market there might be limits to how much a price can change in a given year.
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If one looks at the whole economy, some prices might be very flexible and others rigid. This will lead to the aggregate price level (which we can think of as an average of the individual prices) becoming "sluggish" or "sticky" in the sense that it does not respond to macroeconomic shocks as much as it would if all prices were flexible. The same idea can apply to nominal wages. The presence of nominal rigidity is an important part of macroeconomic theory since it can explain why markets might not reach equilibrium in the short run or even possibly the long run. In his The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes argued that nominal wages display downward rigidity, in the sense that workers are reluctant to accept cuts in nominal wages. This can lead to involuntary unemployment as it takes time for wages to adjust to equilibrium, a situation he thought applied to the Great Depression.