Charted: Four Decades of U.S. Inflation
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Charted: Four Decades of U.S. Inflation

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Four Decades of U.S. Inflation

Charted: Four Decades of U.S. Inflation

In May 2022, the annual rate of U.S. inflation grew to 8.6%—the highest it’s been in four decades, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What’s driving this surge, and what products are seeing the most significant price jumps?

This visualization by Pablo Alvarez shows U.S. inflation levels since 1982 and highlights a few product categories that have seen the biggest year-over-year increases.

The Category Breakdown

Perhaps unsurprisingly, energy sources have seen the biggest year-over-year climb. Gasoline has seen one of the biggest spikes, up 48.7% since May 2021.

Item% yearly change (May 2022)
Gasoline (all types)48.7%
Energy34.6%
Natural Gas30.2%
Electricity12.0%
Food10.1%
All items8.6%
Apparel5.0%

Across the U.S., the average price of gas sat at $4.807 per gallon as of July 4, and experts predict this figure could grow to $6 per gallon by the end of the summer.

While fuel prices were on the upswing prior to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, due to loosening COVID-19 restrictions and increased demand for travel, the conflict sent oil prices skyrocketing. This is because many countries placed sanctions on Russian oil, which put a squeeze on global supply.

Food has also seen a massive cost spike, up 10.1% since May 2021. This is largely due to supply-chain issues, increased transportation costs, and fertilizer shortages.

The Spending Spree Continues

Despite rising prices, many consumers have been continuing to spend. In May 2022, personal consumption expenditures (which account for inflation) were up 0.5% compared to the month prior, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Rather than adjust their spending habits, Americans have been relying on their savings to cope with price hikes. A recent survey of over 2,000 Americans showed that 67% of respondents have used some of their savings to deal with price increases, and 23% have made a substantial dent in their nest eggs.

To help combat inflation, central banks have been raising interest rates to encourage savings and ultimately slow down spending. But this is a delicate dance—if rates are raised too fast and spending screeches to a halt, this could lead to a recession.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Economy

Visualized: The Value of U.S. Imports of Goods by State

U.S. goods imports were worth $2.8T in 2021. From east coast to west, this visualization breaks down imports on a state-by-state basis

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Visualized: The Value of U.S. Imports of Goods by State 2021

For nearly 50 years and counting, U.S. imports have exceeded exports—and 2021 was no exception. Imports of goods to the U.S. equaled $2.8 trillion, relative to $1.8 trillion for exports, putting the 2021 goods trade deficit at its highest level on record.

Using the most recent data on global trade from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, we take a closer look at the value of American goods imports and visualize them state by state.

The Top 10 Importing States, by Total Goods Value

The top 10 states by import value account for 64.5% of all U.S. imports, or $1.8 trillion.

RankStateImport Value ($B)Share (%)
#1California$470.716.5%
#2Texas$312.611.0%
#3Illinois$203.17.1%
#4New Jersey$156.95.5%
#5New York$153.75.4%
#6Michigan$132.24.6%
#7Georgia$123.74.3%
#8Pennsylvania$98.13.4%
#9Tennessee$94.03.3%
#10Florida$93.63.3%
Top 10 States$1,838.664.5%

Overall, the goods trade deficit—the amount by which a country’s imports exceed its exports—was more than $1 trillion in 2021, increasing over 18% from the previous year. Goods imports specifically increased by nearly $502 billion, a 21% increase year-over-year.

California, the U.S.’s top importer, saw over $470 billion worth of goods come in last year. Some of its big ticket items fell in line with the state’s tech sector’s needs, like automatic data processing machines and accessories and parts for said machinery. California’s own deficit is quite high—the state’s goods exports were only valued at approximately $175 billion. The state’s busy ports are a key entry point for goods arriving from Asia, which helps explain this deficit.

In contrast, the country’s top export state is Texas at $375 billion, outweighing its imports and shipping out goods like coal and petroleum. All but three of the country’s top importers—Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Georgia—were also among the country’s top 10 exporters.

Where are Imports Coming From?

Here’s a look at the country’s top trade partners for goods imports and the value of their imports in 2022 as of April.

RankCountryImport Value ($B) as of April '22Share of Total
#1🇨🇳 China$179.317.0%
#2🇲🇽 Mexico$145.113.8%
#3🇨🇦 Canada$141.713.5%
#4🇯🇵 Japan$49.64.7%
#5🇩🇪 Germany$44.24.2%
#6🇻🇳 Vietnam$40.53.8%
#7🇰🇷 South Korea$36.53.5%
#8🇹🇼 Taiwan$29.62.8%
#9🇮🇳 India$27.52.6%
#10🇮🇪 Ireland$26.52.5%

Over half of the top import partners for the United States are located in Asia. China is by far America’s top source of goods, making up 17% of the country’s imports.

Meanwhile, Canada and Mexico each account for roughly 14% of America’s goods imports due to the close proximity, strong economic ties, and trade agreements.

What’s Being Imported?

Imports of goods increased to a value of $2.8 trillion in 2021, the highest on record. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, industrial supplies and materials and crude oil saw some of the most notable increases.

Consumer goods like cell phones, household goods, toys, games, and sporting equipment increased in import value as well, reflecting a trend that the pandemic’s online shopping and delivery demand started.

Additionally, imports of foods, feeds, and beverages were the highest on record in 2021. It is also notable that in April of 2022, exports of goods hit the highest number on record at nearly $175 billion, with exports of feeds, food, and beverage also reaching the highest number of exports recorded. This is likely attributed to food shortages worldwide caused by the war in Ukraine.

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Demographics

Ranked: The Most and Least Livable Cities in 2022

Which cities rank as the best places to live worldwide? This map reveals the world’s most and least livable cities.

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livable cities

Ranked: The Most and Least Livable Cities in 2022

Pandemic restrictions changed the livability of many urban centers worldwide as cultural sites were shuttered, restaurant dining was restricted, and local economies faced the consequences. But as cities worldwide return to the status quo, many of these urban centers have become desirable places to live yet again.

This map uses annual rankings from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to show the world’s most livable cities, measuring different categories including: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.

A Quick Note on Methodology

The ranking attempts to assess which cities across the globe provide the best living conditions, by assigning a score on 30 quantitative and qualitative measures across the five categories with the following weightings:

  1. Healthcare (20%)
  2. Culture & Environment (25%)
  3. Stability (25%)
  4. Education (10%)
  5. Infrastructure (20%)

Of the 30 factors within these categories, the qualitative ones are assigned as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable, or intolerable by a team of expert analysts. Quantitative measures are given a score based on a number of external data points. Everything is then weighted to provide a score between 1-100, with 100 being the ideal.

Ranked: The 10 Most Livable Cities

Of the 172 cities included in the rankings, many of the most livable cities can be found in Europe. However, three of the top 10 are located in Canada: Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto.

Vienna has been ranked number one many times, most recently in 2019. According to the EIU, the Austrian capital only fell out of the top slot during the pandemic years because its famous museums and restaurants were shuttered.

RankCityCountryScore
#1Vienna🇦🇹 Austria99.1
#2Copenhagen🇩🇰 Denmark98.0
#3Zurich🇨🇭 Switzerland96.3
#3Calgary🇨🇦 Canada96.3
#5Vancouver🇨🇦 Canada96.1
#6Geneva🇨🇭 Switzerland95.9
#7Frankfurt🇩🇪 Germany95.7
#8Toronto🇨🇦 Canada95.4
#9Amsterdam🇳🇱 Netherlands95.3
#10Osaka🇯🇵 Japan95.1
#10Melbourne🇦🇺 Australia95.1

Only one Asian city, Osaka, makes the top 10 list, tying with Melbourne for 10th place. Notably, not a single U.S. city is found in the top ranks.

Editor’s note: Two cities tie for both the #3 and #10 ranks, meaning that the “top 10” list actually includes 12 cities.

Ranked: The 10 Least Livable Cities

Some of the least livable cities in the world are located across Africa and Central Asia.

RankCityCountryScore
#163Tehran🇮🇷 Iran44.0
#164Douala🇨🇲 Cameroon43.3
#165Harare🇿🇼 Zimbabwe40.9
#166Dhaka🇧🇩 Bangladesh39.2
#167Port Moresby🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea 38.8
#168Karachi🇵🇰 Pakistan37.5
#169Algiers🇩🇿 Algeria37.0
#170Tripoli🇱🇾 Libya34.2
#171Lagos🇳🇬 Nigeria32.2
#172Damascus🇸🇾 Syria30.7

Many of the least livable cities are within conflict zones, contributing to the low ratings. However, these regions are also home to some of the world’s fastest growing cities, presenting many opportunities for ambitious residents.

The Biggest Changes in Ranking

Let’s take a look at the cities that moved up the global rankings most dramatically compared to last year’s data.

Moving Up: The 10 Most Improved Cities

CityCountryOverall RankRank Change
Frankfurt🇩🇪 Germany#7+32
Hamburg🇩🇪 Germany#16+31
Dusseldorf🇩🇪 Germany#22+28
London🇬🇧 UK#33+27
Manchester🇬🇧 UK#28+26
Paris🇫🇷 France#19+23
Brussels🇧🇪 Belgium#24+22
Amsterdam🇳🇱 Netherlands#9+21
Athens🇬🇷 Greece#73+19
Los Angeles🇺🇸 US#37+18

Here’s a look at the cities that fell the most in the rankings since last year’s report.

Moving Down: The 10 Cities That Tumbled

CityCountryOverall RankRank Change
Wellington🇳🇿 New Zealand#50-46
Auckland🇳🇿 New Zealand#34-33
Adelaide🇦🇺 Australia#30-27
Perth🇦🇺 Australia#32-26
Houston🇺🇸 US#56-25
Reykjavik🇮🇸 Iceland#48-25
Madrid🇪🇸 Spain#43-24
Taipei🇹🇼 Taiwan#53-20
Barcelona🇪🇸 Spain#35-19
Brisbane🇦🇺 Australia#27-17

According to the report, a number of cities in New Zealand and Australia temporarily dropped in the ranking due to COVID-19 restrictions.

It’s also worth noting that some Eastern European cities moved down in the rankings because of their close proximity to the war in Ukraine. Finally, Kyiv was not included in this year’s report because of the conflict.

Urbanization and Livability

As of 2021, around 57% of the world’s population lives in urban centers and projections show that people worldwide will continue to move into cities.

While there are more amenities in urban areas, the pandemic revealed many issues with urbanization and the concentration of large populations. The stress on healthcare systems is felt most intensely in cities and restrictions on public outings are some of the first measures to be introduced in the face of a global health crisis.

Now with the cost of living rising, cities may face pressures on their quality of life, and governments may be forced to cut spending on public services. Regardless, people worldwide continue to see the benefits of city living—it’s projected that over two-thirds of the global population will live in cities by 2050.

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