U.S. Inflation: Which Categories Have Been Hit the Hardest?
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U.S. Inflation: Which Categories Have Been Hit the Hardest?

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u.s. inflation 2021

The Briefing

  • The inflation rate in the U.S. has seen its fastest annual increase in over 30 years
  • Fuel, transportation, and meat products are seeing some of the steepest increases

Prices have been going up in a number of segments of the economy in recent months, and the public is taking notice. One indicator of this is that search interest for the term “inflation” is higher than at any point in the past decade.

inflation search interest

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights rising costs across the board, and shows that specific sectors are experiencing rapid price increases this year.

Where is Inflation Hitting the Hardest?

Since 1996, the Federal Reserve has oriented its monetary policy around maintaining 2% inflation annually. For the most part, U.S. inflation over the past couple of decades has typically hovered within a percentage point or two of that target.

Right now, most price categories are exceeding that, some quite dramatically. Here’s how various categories of consumer spending have fared over the past 12 months:

CPI CategoryOne-Year Change
Energy commodities49.5%
Used cars and trucks26.4%
Energy services11.2%
New vehicles9.8%
Tobacco and smoking products8.5%
Food at home5.4%
Food away from home5.3%
Transportation services4.5%
Apparel4.3%
Shelter3.5%
Alcoholic beverages2.2%
Medical care services1.7%
Medical care commodities-0.4%

Of these top-level categories, fuel and transportation have clearly been the hardest hit.

Drilling further into the data reveals more nuanced stories as well. Below, we zoom in on five areas of consumer spending that are particularly hard-hit, how much prices have increased over the past year, and why prices are rising so fast:

1. Gasoline (+50%)

Consumers are reeling as prices at the gas pump are up more than a dollar per gallon over the previous year.

Simply put, rising demand and constrained global supply are resulting in higher prices. Even as prices have risen, U.S. oil production has seen a slow rebound from the pandemic, as American oil companies are wary of oversupplying the market.

Meanwhile, President Biden has identified inflation as a “top priority”, but there are limited tools at the government’s disposal to curb rising prices. For now, Biden has urged the Federal Trade Commission to examine what role energy companies are playing in rising gas prices.

2. Natural Gas (+28%)

Natural gas prices have risen for similar reasons as gasoline. Supply is slow to come back online, and oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico was adversely affected by Hurricane Ida in September.

Compared to the previous winter, households could see their heating bills jump as much as 54%. An estimated 60% of U.S. households heat their homes with fossil fuels, so rising prices will almost certainly have an effect on consumer spending during the holiday season.

3. Used Vehicles (+26%)

The global semiconductor crunch is causing chaos in a number of industries, but the automotive industry is uniquely impacted. Modern vehicles can contain well over a thousand chips, so constrained supply has hobbled production of nearly a million vehicles in the U.S. alone. This chip shortage is having a knock-on effect on the used vehicle market, which jumped by 26% in a single year. The rental car sector is also up by nearly 40% over the same period.

4. Meats (+15%)

Meat producers are facing a few headwinds, and the result is higher prices at the cash register for consumers. Transportation and fuel costs are factoring into rising prices. Constrained labor availability is also an issue for the industry, which was exacerbated by COVID-19 measures. As a top-level category, inflation is high, but in specific animal product categories, such as uncooked beef and bacon, inflation rates have reached double digits over the past 12 months.

5. Furniture and Bedding (+12%)

This category is being influenced by a few factors. The spike in lumber prices along with other raw materials earlier in the year has had obvious impacts. Materials aside, actually shipping these cumbersome goods has been a challenge due to global supply chain issues such a port back-ups.

How Inflation Could Influence Consumer Spending

Rising prices inevitably impact the economy as consumers adjust their buying habits.

According to a recent survey, 88% of Americans say they are concerned about U.S. inflation. Here are the top five areas where consumers plan to cut back on their spending:

Money saving action% of respondents
Cut back on restaurant / take-out meals48%
Keep my current technology (e.g. phone, tablet) instead of upgrading30%
Budget food and cut back on grocery buying29%
Purchase less clothing / accessories29%
Put off home repairs, renovations, or home upgrades23%

Will Inflation Continue to Rise in 2022?

Many experts believe that U.S. inflation will decelerate going into 2022, though there’s no consensus on the matter.

Improved semiconductor supply and an easing of port congestion around the world could help slow inflation down if nothing goes seriously wrong. That said, if the last few years are any indication, unexpected events could shift the situation at any time.

For the near term, consumers will need to adjust to the sticker shock.

Where does this data come from?

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Consumer Price Index (November 10, 2021)
Data Note: The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the change in prices paid by consumers for goods and services. The CPI reflects spending patterns for each of two population groups: all urban consumers and
urban wage earners and clerical workers, which represent about 93% of the total U.S. population. CPIs are based on prices of food, clothing, shelter, fuels, transportation, doctors’ and dentists’ services, drugs, and other goods and services that people buy for day-to-day living.

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Top 20 Countries With the Most Ultra-Wealthy Individuals

Developing countries are creating wealth like never before, but the majority of the world’s ultra-wealthy people still live in the United States.

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The Briefing

  • According to Credit Suisse, there are now 218,200 people globally with assets over $50 million.
  • The majority (53%) of the world’s ultra-wealthy people live in the U.S.

Top 20 Countries With the Most Ultra-Wealthy Individuals

New data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report shows that there was an “explosion of wealth” last year.

The global population of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) grew by 46,000 to a record of 218,200. The report notes that UHNWIs benefited from a surge in the value of financial assets last year.

These increases are more than double the increases recorded in any other year this century. – Global Wealth Report 2022

The majority of ultra-wealthy individuals already reside in the United States, but 2021 saw a staggering increase of 30,470 people bring added to this exclusive ultra-wealthy category in the country.

Country/regionNet Worth of $50–$100MNet Worth of $100M–$500MNet Worth of $500M+
🇺🇸 United States103,66935,7401,726
🇨🇳 China20,01311,4111,282
🇩🇪 Germany6,0523,354318
🇨🇦 Canada3,4721,912123
🇮🇳 India3,0241,750210
🇯🇵 Japan3,3731,41188
🇫🇷 France3,2371,31485
🇦🇺 Australia2,9471,576109
🇬🇧 United Kingdom2,7871,278110
🇮🇹 Italy2,5741,253103
🇰🇷 South Korea2,4501,319117
🇷🇺 Russia2,1341,488253
🇨🇭 Switzerland2,11598792
🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR1,7901,139127
🇸🇪 Sweden1,8661,01976
🇹🇼 Taiwan1,87491293
🇪🇸 Spain1,50966651
🇧🇷 Brazil1,23874995
🇸🇬 Singapore97457073
🇳🇱 Netherlands1,10047128

China and India will likely see their ultra-wealthy populations increase dramatically, but still have a long way to go before catching up to the United States.

The biggest increases, aside from the U.S., were China (5,200), Germany (1,750), Canada (1,610), and Australia (1,350).

Decreases in UHNWI populations were more rare, but did occur in a few cases. United Kingdom (-1,130), Turkey (-330), and Hong Kong SAR (-130) saw the biggest drops.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2022

Data note: All amounts in USD

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Ranked: The Top Cyberattacks Against Businesses

Recent research provides insight into the top cyberattacks that businesses faced in 2021. See the results in this infographic.

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Ranked: The Top Cyberattacks Against Businesses

Cyberattacks hit a record high in 2021, continuing the momentum that had developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. One reason for this increase is the shift to remote work, which has opened up new vulnerabilities. Home networks are typically less secure, and the rapid rise in the use of online services means security is falling behind.

In this graphic sponsored by Global X ETFs, we’ve visualized survey results showing the 10 most successful types of cyberattacks in 2021.

The Results

These results are from a 2021 whitepaper by Osterman Research, a market research firm focused on cybersecurity. They surveyed 130 cybersecurity professionals from mid and large-sized organizations to see which types of attacks were the most prominent.

Type of AttackPercentage of respondents (%)
Business email attack was successful in tricking a lower-level employee53%
Phishing message resulted in a malware infection49%
Phishing message resulted in an account being compromised47%
Domain name was spoofed to perpetrate phishing campaigns38%
Ransomware was detected before it could be activated34%
Business email attack was successful in tricking a senior executive28%
Domain name impersonation resulted in a third-party being compromised16%
Phishing message resulted in a ransomware infection14%
A ransomware attack was successfully launched10%
A ransomware attack rendered internal IT systems non-operational10%

Source: Osterman Research (2021)

The report notes that these figures may be understated because organizations are likely to downplay their security incidents. Organizations may also lack the capability to detect all types of cyberattacks.

The Impact of Phishing Attacks

Phishing refers to an attack where the perpetrator pretends to be a trusted entity. These attacks can be carried out over email, text message (SMS), and even social media apps. The goal is often to trick the victim into opening a malicious link.

According to the whitepaper, opening malicious links can result in credential theft or ransomware infections. Credential theft is when attackers gain access to internal systems. This is incredibly dangerous, as it allows attackers to commit fraud, impersonate company officials, and steal data.

A powerful tool for preventing credential theft is multi-factor authentication (MFA). This method requires users to provide multiple verification factors to access a resource (instead of a single password).

The Threat of Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of cyberattack that involves blackmail, often for financial gain. For ransomware to be successfully planted, attackers must first gain access to a company’s networks.

Access can be gained through phishing, as discussed above, or alternate means such as compromised software updates. One such attack impacted over 57,000 Asus laptop owners in Russia after hackers created a malicious update tool on an official Asus server.

Cybercriminals have become increasingly ruthless in how ransomware attacks are executed.
– Osterman Research

Researchers have warned that ransomware attacks are becoming more dangerous and sophisticated. In addition to locking organizations out from core systems, hackers are also stealing data to increase their leverage. If a ransom is not paid, the stolen data may be published or even sold to the highest bidder.

Under Siege

The rising frequency and sophistication of cybercriminal activity is a major threat to the world.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risks Report, ransomware attacks have increased by 435% since 2020. Furthermore, there is an estimated shortage of 3 million cybersecurity professionals worldwide.

To catch up, businesses and governments are expected to increase their spending on cybersecurity over the next several years.

The Global X Cybersecurity ETF is a passively managed solution that can be used to gain exposure to the rising adoption of cybersecurity technologies. Click the link to learn more.

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