National prices are surging more than they have in 30 years


Brandon Bell

HOUSTON, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 26: People shop in a Walmart store during Black Friday on November 26, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Retailers are anticipating a busier holiday season than last year after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the quietest Black Friday in 20 years. Shortages of many goods due to supply issues are limiting the availability of some items including cars, appliances and computers during this holiday season. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Tammia Jacobs, Senior Staff Reporter/Writer

There is no end in sight for price inflation in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the growth in October prices is being driven by soaring energy costs and ongoing supply chain backlogs. Gasoline prices are up nearly 49.6% from a year earlier. Economists say that higher energy costs are pushing up the prices of just about every other good pinching an already strained supply chain.

As the prices rise globally, students at Alabama State University feel the pressure of the inflated environment now more than ever before. 

“The gas prices in Montgomery have gotten ridiculous, nearly $3.50 a gallon,” said junior marketing major Simon Caldwell. “A year ago, the gas wasn’t any higher than maybe $2.50 a gallon. It makes it even more difficult to try and save for basic necessities like groceries when the gas price is taking the majority of my money.” 

A surge that began in small sectors now appears to be spreading throughout the economy, with the BLS noting that, “Over the past 12 months, prices climbed 6.2%, the biggest increase since November 1990.” Stripping out food and energy prices, which tend to be more unstable, the index rose 4.6% over the same period, the biggest jump since August 1991. The costs of medical care, household furnishing and operations, and recreation all increased in October.

The BLS data depicts how inflation has emerged as a heavily debated political and economic issue during the pandemic. For years, inflation has maintained below the Federal Reserve’s 2% annual target. However, labor shortages and economic uncertainty amid a global health crisis have turned inflation into a crucial test for policymakers and economists.

“This was the first number that very clearly was not ‘temporary shortage’ driven,” said Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, suggesting that the pandemic-era supply shortages are no longer the sole, overwhelming force. “There were things that are no longer short, coming back up in price. Services that, by definition, aren’t really short, coming up in price.”

“With the prices rising more every day, it’s becoming clear that the pandemic and the shutdown took quite a toll on the U.S. economy,” said sophomore political science major Jordyn Davis.

President Joe Biden tried to mitigate the fears of further inflation at a news conference held on Wednesday by highlighting positive news about the economy, such as lower weekly claims for jobless benefits. Biden simultaneously promoted his economic plan, including the package Congress recently passed to boost infrastructure spending aimed to bring down prices.

“Inflation hurts Americans’ pocketbooks, and reversing this trend is a top priority for me,” Biden said in a statement.

“The pandemic has left our economy in shambles,” said freshman criminal justice major Dakota Mize. “The gas prices are getting higher every day. It’s now more important than ever to know how to budget your spendings.”

 Officials at the White House and the Fed argue that inflation will not come down to more sustainable levels until those supply chains have time to clear.

It is unclear when that will happen, given how vulnerable the economy remains to the coronavirus pandemic, which adds unpredictable pressure to the supply chain overseas and domestically. Last week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell noted, “It is very difficult to predict the persistence of supply constraints or their effects on inflation. Global supply chains are complex; they will return to normal function, but the timing of that is highly uncertain.”

“The Biden administration needs to take action sooner rather than later,” said senior secondary education major Nakiah Dennis.” I am already bracing for higher prices during the holiday season. As financially unstable college students, this is not the ideal economy for us to be entering. We are the upcoming generation of consumers, and it’s highly discouraging to graduate during a time of such inflation and limited jobs.”