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.
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 Category||One-Year Change|
|Used cars and trucks||26.4%|
|Tobacco and smoking products||8.5%|
|Food at home||5.4%|
|Food away from home||5.3%|
|Medical care services||1.7%|
|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 meals||48%|
|Keep my current technology (e.g. phone, tablet) instead of upgrading||30%|
|Budget food and cut back on grocery buying||29%|
|Purchase less clothing / accessories||29%|
|Put off home repairs, renovations, or home upgrades||23%|
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.
Visualizing Companies with the Most Patents Granted in 2021
Companies around the world invest billions in R&D to provide cutting-edge innovation to their products and services.
Visualizing Companies with the Most Patents Granted in 2021
Companies around the world invest billions in R&D to provide cutting-edge innovation to their products and services. In order to protect these investments, companies apply for patents. Therefore, the number of utility patents a company is granted can be considered a rough measure of its level of innovation.
Every year, the Patent 300 List identifies America’s most innovative companies within the intellectual property space by analyzing the patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
In 2021, the USPTO granted a total of 327,798 utility patents, down 7% from the previous year. Let’s take a look at which companies generated the most patents in 2021.
|1||🇺🇸 U.S.||International Business Machines Corporation||8,540||-9%|
|2||🇰🇷 South Korea||Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.||8,517||0%|
|3||🇰🇷 South Korea||Lg Corporation||4,388||-13%|
|4||🇯🇵 Japan||Canon K.K.||3,400||-8%|
|5||🇨🇳 China||Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.||2,955||-7%|
|6||🇺🇸 U.S.||Intel Corporation||2,835||-14%|
|7||🇹🇼 Taiwan||Taiwan Semiconductor Mfg. Co. Ltd.||2,807||-3%|
|8||🇯🇵 Japan||Toyota Jidosha K.K.||2,753||-2%|
|9||🇺🇸 U.S.||Raytheon Technologies Corporation||2,694||-16%|
|10||🇯🇵 Japan||Sony Corporation||2,624||-9%|
For 29 consecutive years, IBM has led U.S. companies in the number of patents received annually. In 2021, the company received 8,540 patents, a 9% decline from the previous year.
IBM’s innovations are focused on solving major global challenges, and cover areas such as sustainable growth, climate change, and preventing future pandemics, as well as initiatives enabling food and energy security. They aim to address these problems through a blend of high-performance computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum computing.
One of IBM’s most noteworthy innovations in 2021 was their new quantum processor called Eagle, which broke the 100-qubit barrier to bring quantum computing into a new era. This processor has the ability to solve problems that classical computers can’t, giving it the potential to bring real-world benefits to different fields from renewable energy to finance and more.
Samsung: A Close Second Innovator
Samsung Electronics is one of the biggest innovators over the last decade. In 2021, the company got 8,517 patents granted by the USPTO, a close second to IBM.
The company’s patent-winning innovations take place in several areas, including virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), 5G technologies, and autonomous driving.
The Technology Sector Dominates Utility Patents
Unsurprisingly, out of the top 25 companies with the most patents granted in 2021, 16 of them belong to the technology sector.
However, utility patents are not only limited to tech companies.
In fact, companies from all sectors apply for patents every year. Patents are great assets for companies since they give them exclusive commercial rights for their inventions and protect them from competition. This is one of the main reasons we see companies getting thousands of new patents every year.
Russia Has Been Suspended From the UN Human Rights Council
Here’s how the global community voted on the resolution: In favor – 93 | Abstained – 58 | Against – 24
Russia Has Been Suspended From the UN Human Rights Council
On April 7, 2022, the United Nations suspended Russia from its seat on the Human Rights Council.
This suspension comes amid growing condemnation of Russia over alleged civilian murders committed by Russian troops in Ukraine. Widely distributed videos appear to show the bodies of civilians scattered along the streets in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
To be approved, the resolution required a two-thirds majority of assembly members that vote “yes” or “no”. Here is a complete list of how countries voted:
|Country||Vote||NATO Member||Former Soviet Union|
|🇦🇩 Andorra||In favor|
|🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda||In favor|
|🇦🇱 Albania||In favor|
|🇦🇷 Argentina||In favor|
|🇦🇹 Austria||In favor|
|🇦🇺 Australia||In favor|
|🇧🇪 Belgium||In favor|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||--|
|🇧🇬 Bulgaria||In favor|
|🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam||Abstained|
|🇧🇸 Bahamas||In favor|
|🇨🇦 Canada||In favor|
|🇨🇩 Dem. Republic of the Congo||In favor|
|🇨🇫 Central African Republic||Against|
|🇨🇬 Republic of the Congo||Against|
|🇨🇭 Switzerland||In favor|
|🇨🇮 Côte d’Ivoire||In favor|
|🇨🇱 Chile||In favor|
|🇨🇴 Colombia||In favor|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||In favor|
|🇨🇻 Cabo Verde||Abstained|
|🇨🇾 Cyprus||In favor|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||In favor|
|🇩🇪 Germany||In favor|
|🇩🇰 Denmark||In favor|
|🇩🇲 Dominica||In favor|
|🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||In favor|
|🇪🇨 Ecuador||In favor|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||In favor|
|🇪🇸 Spain||In favor|
|🇫🇮 Finland||In favor|
|🇫🇯 Fiji||In favor|
|🇫🇲 Micronesia||In favor|
|🇫🇷 France||In favor|
|🇬🇩 Grenada||In favor|
|🇬🇪 Georgia||In favor|
|🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea||--|
|🇬🇷 Greece||In favor|
|🇬🇹 Guatemala||In favor|
|🇭🇳 Honduras||In favor|
|🇭🇷 Croatia||In favor|
|🇭🇹 Haiti||In favor|
|🇭🇺 Hungary||In favor|
|🇮🇪 Ireland||In favor|
|🇮🇱 Israel||In favor|
|🇮🇸 Iceland||In favor|
|🇮🇹 Italy||In favor|
|🇯🇲 Jamaica||In favor|
|🇯🇵 Japan||In favor|
|🇰🇮 Kiribati||In favor|
|🇰🇲 Comoros||In favor|
|🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis||Abstained|
|🇰🇵 North Korea||Against|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||In favor|
|🇱🇨 Saint Lucia||In favor|
|🇱🇮 Liechtenstein||In favor|
|🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||Abstained|
|🇱🇷 Liberia||In favor|
|🇱🇹 Lithuania||In favor|
|🇱🇺 Luxembourg||In favor|
|🇱🇻 Latvia||In favor|
|🇱🇾 Libya||In favor|
|🇲🇨 Monaco||In favor|
|🇲🇩 Moldova||In favor|
|🇲🇪 Montenegro||In favor|
|🇲🇭 Marshall Islands||In favor|
|🇲🇰 North Macedonia||In favor|
|🇲🇲 Myanmar||In favor|
|🇲🇹 Malta||In favor|
|🇲🇺 Mauritius||In favor|
|🇲🇼 Malawi||In favor|
|🇳🇱 Netherlands||In favor|
|🇳🇴 Norway||In favor|
|🇳🇷 Nauru||In favor|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||In favor|
|🇵🇦 Panama||In favor|
|🇵🇪 Peru||In favor|
|🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||In favor|
|🇵🇭 Philippines||In favor|
|🇵🇱 Poland||In favor|
|🇵🇹 Portugal||In favor|
|🇵🇼 Palau||In favor|
|🇵🇾 Paraguay||In favor|
|🇷🇴 Romania||In favor|
|🇷🇸 Serbia||In favor|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||Abstained|
|🇸🇧 Solomon Islands||--|
|🇸🇨 Seychelles||In favor|
|🇸🇪 Sweden||In favor|
|🇸🇮 Slovenia||In favor|
|🇸🇰 Slovakia||In favor|
|🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||In favor|
|🇸🇲 San Marino||In favor|
|🇸🇸 South Sudan||Abstained|
|🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe||--|
|🇸🇻 El Salvador||Abstained|
|🇹🇩 Chad||In favor|
|🇹🇱 Timor Leste||In favor|
|🇹🇴 Tonga||In favor|
|🇹🇷 Turkey||In favor|
|🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago||Abstained|
|🇹🇻 Tuvalu||In favor|
|🇺🇦 Ukraine||In favor|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||Abstained|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||In favor|
|🇺🇸 United States||In favor|
|🇺🇾 Uruguay||In favor|
|🇻🇨 St Vincent and the Grenadines||Abstained|
|🇼🇸 Samoa||In favor|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||Abstained|
|🏴 Bosnia and Herzegovina||In favor|
Not surprisingly, all NATO countries voted in favor of suspending Russia from the Council. This includes Turkey, which has taken a more neutral stance than other allies since the invasion began. Altogether, 93 countries voted for the resolution.
On the other side, 24 countries voted against the resolution. China is perhaps the most significant “no” vote, citing a lack of openness and transparency in the process. Of course, Russia itself voted against the resolution.
A number of countries abstained from voting, most notably, India. Leading up to the vote, Moscow indicated that even an abstention would be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties.
This suspension adds to the list of actions taken against Russia—including heavy sanctions—as the country becomes more isolated from the international community—particularly Western nations.
What Does the UN Human Rights Council Do?
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a UN body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world.
The Council investigates breaches of human rights in UN member states and member countries address big picture human rights issues.
How Does the UN Human Rights Council Work?
The Council consists of 47 members, elected yearly by the General Assembly for staggered three-year terms.
Using the UN regional grouping system, members are selected to represent a diverse and fair mix of countries from around the world. Until its suspension, Russia was one of the two countries representing Eastern Europe, along with Ukraine.
Members are eligible for re-election for one additional term, after which they relinquish their seat.
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