Consumer Prices: Houston economists weigh up the recovery in the economy

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – There is no question that our economy has been through a lot since the pandemic began. According to the Department of Labor, consumer prices have risen by more than 8.5% over the past year.

“I happened to try something as simple as meat for beef stew,” explained Francene Young of Houston. “Six dollars a pound in a place that claims to be a discount store.”

At the Houston Food Bank, demand has decreased compared to when the pandemic began, but has increased since 2021.

“You see the shortages in the grocery stores and the rising prices. So it’s not the extra that would normally go to us,” said President Brian Greene. “We’re seeing a lot of rising prices causing fewer resources for us, but also creating greater demand.”

But economists say we shouldn’t call this a recession.

“When economists use the word ‘recession,’ they’re generally talking about a slowdown in economic activity,” said Christopher Clarke, professor of economics at the University of Houston. “The economy already contracted dramatically in the spring of 2020, but it started growing again in the summer of 2020 and has been growing steadily ever since. In fact, it’s bigger than it used to be.”

The country’s unemployment rate is 3.6%.

“The unemployment rate is extremely low. If you want a job, you can get a job,” Clarke said. “And what’s interesting is that the wages of those hardest hit at the bottom of the labor market are now rising faster than inflation. It’s the people in the middle whose wages don’t match.”

“If you think of hyperinflation, Zimbabwe has experienced it, other countries have experienced that, unlike recession and the Great Depression and some of these areas, it really doesn’t matter to the person who is starving, who can’t afford rent, or is considering foreclosure on their family homes,” explained UHD Assistant Professor of Business Law and Supply Chain Management Dietrich von Biedenfeld. “Those are academic terms. The real effect is pretty much the same.”

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Dais Johnston

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