The numbers don’t lie, and northern Michiganders feel the economic truth every day.
For most of the past year, economists have prattled on in soundbites, op-eds and white papers about spiking inflation in 2021. Time and again those same economists called rising prices “transitory”, but now many of them project above-target inflation to continue in 2022.
Many of us have spent decades not worrying, talking or thinking much about inflation, and almost certainly not experiencing its downside firsthand.
And unfortunately, the price spikes seem to hit us a little worse in the Grand Traverse region.
Sure, wages in our neighborhood have risen dramatically in some sectors. But they’ve barely budged in others. The vast majority of wage increases can’t hold a candle to price increases, especially in our backyard.
Think about it, the price of just about everything working- or middle-class people need to get by continues to spike.
Home prices are soaring. Rent is close behind. Gas (always was a little more expensive here) is up. Day care tuition (if you can get a slot) is up. Vehicle prices are up. Food is more expensive.
Those all seem like things most of our neighbors could take in stride. If you own a home, rising prices carry with them rising equity. And many can absorb food or fuel increases, at least in the short term.
But what about all the people in our region — about 40 percent — who lived paycheck-to-paycheck and still came up short at the end of the year prior to the pandemic?
Considering all the sectors that have seen the most dramatic price increases are the ones those families depend upon most to live here, it would be safe to assume they might be worse off in 2022 than they were in 2019.
It’s frustrating to think about all the progress our region has made toward living wages for more workers being reversed by dramatic inflation in key areas that pull those raises straight back out of their pockets.
No, rising prices into 2022 are poised to ensure the biggest obstacles to attracting and retaining workers in our region — housing, day care, and wages — will persist as well.
The numbers simply don’t lie.