Stagflation isn’t trending, but it was mentioned in quite a few headlines last week.
Stagflation is a portmanteau of ‘stagnation’ and ‘inflation.’ It occurs when a country experiences slow economic growth along with high inflation and high unemployment. In the United States:
- Economic growth was strong during the second quarter; 6.5 percent year-over-year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. However, some forecasts for third quarter’s economic growth have been revised downward. Economists at one large investment bank lowered their estimate from 9 percent to 5.5 percent, reported Lindsay Dunsmuir of Reuters.
- Inflation is the rise in prices over time. The Federal Reserve prefers to measure the rise by looking at median Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) inflation. Median PCE was up 0.29 percent from June to July 2021, and up 2.2 percent over the past 12 months. The Federal Reserve’s target for inflation is 2 percent.
- Employment showed a solid increase in August, although the gains were less robust than many expected. Unemployment ticked lower (5.2 percent), the labor force participation rate remained unchanged (61.7 percent), and average hourly earnings ticked higher ($30.73).
The culprit behind slowing growth, rising prices and recent unemployment levels is COVID-19. The spread of the Delta variant created a new wave of parts and labor shortages. Demand for goods is rising as many people appear to be less concerned about the virus. Shortages of goods coupled with high demand for those goods have pushed prices higher.
The Economist reported that the Delta variant, “…looks like a stagflationary force that is sapping growth less dramatically [than the original COVID-19 strain] but firing up inflation. Delta is weighing on consumer spending in the rich world but not causing a collapse. In countries with lots of vaccines, cases are no longer doing as much to stop consumers from moving around.”
Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished lower, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and the Nasdaq Composite moved higher. The yield on 10-year Treasuries ticked higher during the week.
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