Tag - cost of living

Is Inflation Going to Get Out of Hand in 2021?

A question on many minds these days: Is inflation about to get out of hand from all of the money the Federal Reserve is creating and all the money that Congress is spending? The ingredients for inflation are active in the economy. There is a lot of fiscal and monetary stimulus as congress and the Federal Reserve work to jumpstart the economy after the hit it took from the pandemic. The Recent stimulus bill amounted to about $5 trillion. There is a lot of pent-up demand from consumers, who have had to defer much of their normal spending during the year, on everything from meals out, to travel, to haircuts, to professional clothes for the office. Already, signs of inflation rising are appearing with rising commodity prices and bond yields. Rising home prices don’t factor into government inflation numbers, but they do affect many people's cost of living. However, the Federal Reserve isn't worried. Chairman Jerome Powell is betting that inflation won't get out of hand and that reviving the economy is more important right now. In fact, he actually wants some inflation…not too much, but something a bit above the traditional ceiling of about 2%. If prices do start to jump, Powell figures the Fed can increase interest rates to restrain inflation sometime down the road. Still, higher inflation is expected in the months ahead. Inflation is roughly rising 0.2% a month, which is a reasonable base assumption. If that is the case, we should see 1.5% inflation in March, but it will quickly rise to 2.1% and then 2.4% in April and May, at that relatively being 0.2% assumption. As you can see the increase isn’t outrageous, but it is high enough that consumers will notice. Inflation should begin to relax as we continue to see the economy opening up. There was a surge of jobs added in March as more businesses get back to normal operations. Schools, food service, hotels and amusement parks made up half of the increase this year already. Construction jobs also increased as the weather continues to warm up across the country. With people returning to work the unemployment rate for the country is down to 6% and should continue to fall quickly, hopefully dropping below 5% by the end of the year. One silver lining of the increase in inflation this year is a bigger cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients in 2022. This year's COLA came in at only 1.3%, largely because so many prices dropped or stayed steady in 2020, when pandemic shutdowns effected the economy. Now, prices of gasoline and many other goods and services are rebounding. Figure a jump of social security benefits of about 3% next January.

*Source: Kiplinger Letter: Vol.98, No.10**


Housing Becoming Less Affordable Along Wasatch Front

  In March, researchers at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute found that our current market conditions are threatening to cause a crisis in Utah based on a growing housing shortage, while current home prices continue to appreciate. The Wasatch front housing market is stronger than ever with an increasing demand for both single family and multifamily rental units through the northern part of the state. New research shows that demand has outpaced wage growth which is causing a greater rift in affordability. Studies show that median home prices during the first three months of 2018 were not affordable for average wage earners in about 68% of the counties included in the US report. Incomes in Utah have failed to keep pace with interest rates, the report noted. The report also defined housing affordability as a unit where an owner or tenant pays no more than 30 percent of their household income toward housing costs — rent or mortgage. Davis, Utah and Weber counties, which are located along the Wasatch front rated less affordable than any prior quarter average during the first three months of 2018, while Salt Lake county was equal to its historic affordability index. Affordability often suffers during booming economic cycles, which frequently outpaces incomes for at least the start of these growth spurts. The risk is that individuals and companies could pull out of the area when they are no longer able to operate or live because of the expensive housing. Home values are going up quickly [but] the negative side of that is that the homes themselves are also becoming less affordable. Three factors that could help improve affordability in the short term are things like decreasing home prices, increasing wages and although cited as the least likely to happen, decreasing interest rates. However, the Wasatch front is still a more reasonable market than other large surrounding urban areas like Northern or Southern California, Las Vegas, Seattle or even Denver. Housing prices in Utah will continue to increase at rates well above the national average due to relatively high rates of population and economic growth. As long as the state is considered a bargain for some other competitive markets, we will probably see home prices continuing to grow and affordability continuing to be an issue.