- The consumer price index is up 6.2% over the past year through October.
- This represents the highest inflation rate in more than 30 years.
- Andrew Hunter, cofounder of Adzuna (a search engine for job advertisements), gives his insight as to how inflation is impacting employee’s wages.
The consumer price index, which measures prices paid by the typical consumer, is up 6.2% over the past year through October – the highest inflation rate in more than 30 years.
Prices are up for everything from gasoline to houses, which is putting a heavy financial weight on already hard-pressed families, workers, and businesses that are struggling with the economic fallout from the pandemic.
For a household earning the median income of almost $70,000 per year, the acceleration in inflation is adding an estimated nearly $200 per month to living costs, according to CNN Business.
As inflation tightens its grip on the economy, the Federal Reserve has begun to take back its previous assurances that it’s just a temporary side effect of the pandemic.
Economists at Goldman Sachs warned that inflation is “likely to get worse before it gets better,” and could persist well into next year.
While economists say policymakers now are much better-equipped to respond to inflation, consumers are really feeling the pressure, particularly those with limited means to afford the higher prices for essentials.
Why has inflation risen so quickly?
Monetary policies affect inflation. Keeping interest rates low and injecting a lot of money into financial markets, which was supposed to boost the economy during the pandemic, can be linked to the high inflation America is currently experiencing.
Stimulus checks boosted total demand, and at the same time the ability to supply goods and services has been restricted by the pandemic.
To break it down: There are currently limits on supply while there is a huge increase in demand, which pushes prices up.
Inflation impacts workers’ salaries
If prices are growing faster than wages, then people are getting inflation-adjusted pay cuts.
“Over the past 12 months, wages certainly did not keep up with inflation,” said Erica Groshen, senior economics advisor at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
Average hourly wages grew 3.6% in June relative to 2020, the most in more than a decade. But inflation essentially gave the average worker about a 2% pay cut, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In a Q&A with Andrew Hunter, cofounder of Adzuna (a search engine for job advertisements), Hunter gave his insight as to how inflation is impacting employee’s wages.
Allwork.Space: How is the inflation rate impacting salaries?
Andrew Hunter: On paper, it may appear as though workers are getting pay raises year after year, but in real terms inflation is rising faster than average earnings and as a result, disposable income is shrinking.
In October, this meant real wages reigned back 0.5%.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time with Americans already feeling the additional financial pressures of the holiday season. You can think about it this way – if you got a raise, it’s not actually a raise unless it matches inflation, because the dollar isn’t worth what it was when you got your previous salary bump. This means you need to make more to break even from last year.
There are some secondary effects, as well, as workers will not want to work for less. This may push workers to ask for higher raises, or to look to ask to work from home if they have a long commute to save both time and money on transportation.
Allwork.Space: What should people know when negotiating for a raise? How much do they need to ask for so it’s actually a bump in pay?
If you haven’t received a significant bump in pay over the last year, shop around to see if you can get more elsewhere, or at least to know how much you should be making. This will be important for negotiating with your company.
Currently, U.S. CPI inflation is running at 6.2%, so any raise less than 6.2% will mean a fall in earnings in real terms. A worker with annual take home pay of $100,000 in January 2021 now needs a paycheck of $105,732 to be making the same in real terms. Anything less and their ‘real salary’ has fallen.
Follow the same equation to see what you need to be making to truly be above where you were earlier this year or last year. If your employer can’t give you the raise in salary you’re looking for, consider asking for alternative perks to make up the difference. Try to negotiate a travel allowance or remote work to cut on commuting costs.
Allwork.Space: How do you think future wages will pan out?
We’re seeing a wage recalibration in industries that have long been underpaid and underappreciated. These are the sectors struggling most for workers, and therefore the sectors increasing pay the most to try and attract new staff – including the restaurant and retail industries and others.
We’ve seen advertised salaries for Logistics & Warehouse workers rise 23% year-over-year, and this isn’t the only sector where salaries are rising. We believe this will continue across sectors into next year.
Also, in addition to improving wages, employers are taking action to improve worker conditions and provide better perks to compete with white collar industries. This includes perks like on-site childcare, tuition reimbursement, and other perks that enhance employees’ quality of life.
Allwork.Space: What is the impact of inflation on the job market from your perspective? Any predictions for 2022?
Global supply chain shortages are one of the biggest factors driving inflationary increases, but we expect these issues to ease in 2022. The labor market will remain tight – it will take a little time for upskilling and retraining in necessary sectors – but this will mean workers start to feel the benefits of rising wages once more.
To rebalance the tight labor market, we will need to address the high quit rate and encourage portions of the workforce who can’t return to come back to employment. This includes older workers who may have COVID-related or health concerns, working parents who are balancing childcare and work, and women with young children, as this group has been hit the most by pandemic-related school closures. The rollout of vaccinations to children may help alleviate this pressure, but the cost of childcare remains an obstacle for many people.
We’re also currently in a period of pent-up demand driving higher consumer spending. This is being driven by workers able to save more during the pandemic. This won’t continue indefinitely, especially with the higher cost of living, which we believe will soften the upwards pressure on prices.
The best outcome would be if we start to see wage growth driven by better productivity, more efficient technologies and a higher skilled economy, rather than a tight labor market. We need to achieve a balance first, but are hopeful that comes in the future.