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A Holiday Season Divided by Inflation and Economic Struggles

  • November 25, 2022

“A lot of these households are moving toward the greater fragility that was the norm before the pandemic,” said Matthew Luzzetti, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.

Many working-class households fared well in 2020 and 2021. Though they lost jobs rapidly at the outset of the pandemic, hiring rebounded swiftly, wage growth has been strong, and repeated government relief checks helped families amass savings.

But after 18 months of rapid price inflation — some of which was driven by stimulus-fueled demand — the poor are depleting those cushions. American families were still sitting on about $1.7 trillion in excess savings — extra savings accumulated during the pandemic — by the middle of this year, based on Fed estimates, but about $1.35 trillion of it was held by the top half of earners and just $350 billion in the bottom half.

At the same time, prices climbed 7.7 percent in the year through October, far faster than the roughly 2 percent pace that was normal before the pandemic. As savings have run down and necessities like car repair, food and housing become sharply more expensive, many people in lower-income neighborhoods have begun turning to credit cards to sustain their spending. Balances for that group are now above 2019 levels, New York Fed research shows. Some are struggling to keep up at all.

“With the cost of food, the explosive cost of eggs, people are having to come to us more,” said Ms. Chambers of Catholic Charities, explaining that other rising prices, including rent, are intensifying the struggle. The location planned to give out 1,000 turkeys and 600 gift cards for turkeys, at its holiday distribution, along with bags of canned creamed corn, cranberry sauce and other Thanksgiving fare.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/25/business/economy/economy-holiday-season.html

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