more expensive, and in-demand items are hard to find. It’s a real “All I want for Christmas is to stop hearing about supply chains and inflation for half a second” moment.
While it’s a weird time in the economy, that weirdness isn’t necessarily translating to people holding back on buying. People are shopping a little differently this holiday season, but they’re not not shopping. Nearly two years into a pandemic, the American consumer will not be deterred, at least not entirely.
But they probably won’t be happy about it. The consumer price index, which measures what consumers pay for goods and services, increased by 6.2 percent from a year ago in October, and it crept up by 0.9 percent over the course of the month alone. Regardless of the arguments over how serious a threat inflation is to the American economy right now (some economists say it’s a big deal, others that it’s not), consumers hate it. The price of food is up 5.3 percent over the last year, meaning holiday meals are going to be more expensive. Gas is pricey, too, meaning so is traveling by car. Big-ticket items, including cars, are more expensive, but so are smaller-ticket ones, like apparel.
Likewise, supply chain problems are popping up in many places. Before people can even worry about how much something is going to cost, they’ve got to first wonder whether they’re even going to be able to get ahold of it.
Despite the one-two punch of inflation and supply chain woes, it seems like consumers are determined to forge ahead. Some people are spending a little earlier, but they still appear to be spending. As the job market improves and more people get back to work, they’ve got more money to put out there, which they are.
“You get more people employed, and obviously, more people employed means more income and therefore it means more total consumption,” said Michael Gapen, head of US economics research at Barclays. “None of this is to say that we should be happy with where inflation is — it’s a problem.”