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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Super-Sized Bets for Football’s Big Game (2013-2022)

Expanding legalization has driven an increase in bets on football’s big game, with wagers more than doubling from 2021 to 2022. (Sponsored Content)

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Dollar value of bets for football's big game shown over the last ten years using footballs. The football is much bigger in 2022 to indicate that bets doubled from 2021 to 2022.

The Briefing

  • Sports betting became legal outside Nevada when the federal ban was lifted in 2018.
  • Legalization contributed to betting growth, with wagers on football’s big game increasing ten-fold over the last decade.

Super-Sized Bets for Football’s Big Game

With 99 million viewers in 2022, “more Americans tune in to the Super Bowl than any other television broadcast.” Its large viewership, combined with expanding legislation, has led to ballooning wagers.

In this graphic sponsored by Roundhill Investments, we show how these bets have grown over the last 10 years.

Annual Legal Bets on the Big Game

From 2013 through 2018, sports betting was only legal in Nevada and year-over-year growth was low. However, when the federal sports betting ban was lifted in May 2018, more states started allowing bets.

By 2022, 33 states plus Washington, DC were legally able to bet on the game. Wagers climbed quickly as a result.

YearTotal BetsAnnual Growth
2013$99M5%
2014$119M21%
2015$116M-3%
2016$133M14%
2017$138M4%
2018$159M15%
2019$191M20%
2020$280M47%
2021$486M73%
2022$1.1B119%

Data only for states that report bets on football’s big game, see graphic for full list of states included in 2022.

Impressively, legal bets surpassed the $1 billion mark in 2022. Growth was primarily driven by New York State legalizing online sports betting, with the state contributing nearly $500 million to the total.

Since the New York State Gaming Commission does not report event-specific totals, we have estimated this amount based on sports bets made the week leading up to and including the date of the big game.

Investment Exposure to an Emerging Industry

Due to legalization, bets on football’s big game have grown 10 times larger over the last decade. A further shift away from bookies and toward legal operators appears to be likely. In September 2022, 89% of Americans said it was important to bet with a legal operator this NFL season, up from 76% in February 2022.

For legal operators, this could translate into revenue opportunities. Companies that take legal bets reported more than $62 million in revenue from the big game alone in 2022, a 37% jump from the prior year.

Looking for exposure to the growing sports betting industry? Explore Roundhill’s sports betting ETF, $BETZ.

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