A Thought on Inflation

The press is making much of this; here, for instance, is OAN:

US consumer prices rose by the most in 13 years in June amid supply constraints and a continued rebound in the costs of travel-related services from pandemic-depressed levels as the economic recovery gathered momentum.
The consumer price index increased 0.9% last month, the largest gain since June 2008, after advancing 0.6% in May, the Labor Department said on Tuesday.
In the 12 months through June, the CPI jumped 5.4%. That was the largest gain since August 2008 and followed a 5.0% increase in the 12 months through May. Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI accelerated 0.9% after increasing 0.7% in May.
The so-called core CPI surged 4.5% on a year-on-year basis….

Of course, that compares this year with last—and last year, 2020, was a coarse aberration, consisting as it did of a non-economic environment: a Government-ordered nearly complete shutdown of our nation’s economy. Inflation-related data from that year—nearly all economic data from that year—are entirely suspect, not because they’re inaccurate, but because they flow from an entirely non-economic cause, that government reaction to the Wuhan Virus situation.

A better comparison, then, is 2021 with 2019, the last year before the Government closure of our economy [emphasis added].

$1 in 2019 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $1.05 today, an increase of $0.05 over 2 years. The dollar had an average inflation rate of 2.61% per year between 2019 and today [26 Jun 2021], producing a cumulative price increase of 5.30%.

That’s in line with the Fed’s goal of 2% inflation.

There are some instructive city by city inflation rates, measured from 2019 to 2021, at the link, too. None of those rates are near the 2020-2021 rate, either; they’re all in line with the Fed’s inflation goal.

Another comparison with 2019 is this one:

Compared with two years ago, overall prices rose 3% in June.

2020’s data should be entered into the statistics books with a big, bold asterisk. That year’s data are suitable only for research into government interventions in an economy and for comparison with other years of government-originated closures.

Of course, there are other factors, still rippling through the inflation from 2020, that can extend this year-on-year period of apparent inflation into something to be taken seriously. One is that as we do come out from under Government’s Wuhan Virus reaction, and folks get back out and about and back to work and to buying stuff, demand is picking up rapidly. Demand increases always will outpace production increases, too, as decisions to buy or not to buy are relatively instantaneous, while production lags the decision, and then ramping up production takes time.

Another factor is the lack of folks returning to work with the lifting—in most States—of State government restrictions on movement and business operations. That’s driven in large part (not solely) by folks making the entirely rational, from their perspective, decision to make more money from the Federal government’s handouts than they can by going to work.

Another factor, also labor related, is the mismatch between job qualification requirements and the location of folks satisfying those requirements.

Still another factor, this one Wuhan Virus related, is the interruption of supply chains, as businesses learn empirically the fragility of just-in-time supply based on foreign sources, and those businesses set about reorienting their supply chains.

Those disruptions will take some time to resolve themselves.

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