Bruising levels of inflation from rent to gas to food continues to hit many American households hard, so hard it may be pushing a new group of the population into food stamps, hints new data.
Google search volumes are still running 100% higher than pre-pandemic levels (see chart below), according to DataTrek. Search volumes have trended higher since the start of 2022 as inflation has accelerated, notably at the gas pump.
Volumes peaked in April 2020 as millions of people lost their job due to the crushing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is remarkable that ‘food stamp’ Google search volumes remain so elevated in what other economic indicators say is a hot U.S. economy, but we suspect food inflation and still-lower levels of labor force participation versus pre-pandemic are playing a role here,” DataTrek says.
Some 41.5 million people were on food stamps at the end of 2021, according to government data. The average benefit per person tallied $218.
The analysis on food stamps is imprecise naturally, but there are enough signs out there that point to many households really struggling to make ends meet each day.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 7.9% in February, marking the fastest pace of annual inflation in 40 years amid a push higher in rent, food and used car prices. The average national price for gasoline is $4.23, says GasBuddy, up more than 60 cents from a year ago.
Consumers have of course taken notice with their daily budgets under siege.
The University of Michigan consumer confidence measure for March reached a new low for the year. Personal finances were seen worsening by the largest proportion of survey respondents since the mid-1940s.
Wall Street pros think we are now headed for a growth slowdown.
“I don’t think 7% inflation or more, which we have now, is really our future. A lot of things will reverse like housing prices, oil prices, and used car prices. I think we’re looking at 4% to 5% inflation for the next several years. So that’s stagflation. But it’s not a stagflation of the early 80s,” Pimco founder Bill Gross said in a recent interview on Yahoo Finance Presents.
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