Would you agree with me this morning that the world seems crazier and wilder as each day passes?
Reading the newspaper has never been more important than it is today.
At the same time, however, you better have an aspirin ready to address the dizziness you will experience as your head spins from the pages that tell the stories of a world turned upside down and inside out.
Nowhere is that more noticeable than with stories dealing with the economy.
Take, for instance, stories a week ago that addressed the huge worker shortage in the country. Talk to any business owner and you will quickly discover their greatest need right now is people to work for them. The shortage is real across the U.S., from coast-to-coast.
In an Associated Press story, officials with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said an historic 11.5 million job openings were posted in March (the most recent statistics), meaning there are two openings available for every U.S. citizen who currently is unemployed.
So why, then, have those positions not yet been filled, I wonder.
In another AP story just days later, it revealed 428,000 jobs were added to the country’s economy in April, which, by all means, is great news. In fact, that growth continues a trend that has been occurring for several months now.
However, the reality of the situation is that, even with all those jobs, the U.S. economy stands 1.2 million jobs short of the number of jobs that existed in early 2020, right before the coronavirus pandemic struck. And, while the economy added 428,000 jobs in April, a record 4.5 million Americans had quit their jobs in March.
I sat at lunch this week with a banker. We talked about the recent action of the Federal Reserve in making borrowing much costlier for Americans, and what effect that will have on the crazy real estate market. What was the norm just nine weeks ago today has changed dramatically, and, as a result, on average, a 30-year loan today has reached its highest point since 2009, he said.
The same can be said for the auto industry, restaurants, groceries, fuel, and the list goes on and on.
I remember years ago Steve Fletcher writing a column about wheat prices, and the effect it was going to have on Egypt’s and the U.S.’s economies. Four months later, everything he had shared came true.
I thought of that while reading updates from Ukraine. Do you realize Ukraine is a major global grain (wheat and corn) and oilseed exporter, but the war has disrupted its ability to harvest, store, and move product to market.
As a result, many parts of the world are going to face major food shortages this year.
Do you, like me, get frustrated every time you fill your tank with gas these days? The lack of Russian oil on the global market is impacting prices everywhere.
According to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy (a fuel analysis company), earlier this week, a new average U.S. record high for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was reached — $4.36 a gallon.
“Liquid fuels have turned into liquid gold, with prices for gasoline and diesel spiraling out of control with little power to harness them as the imbalance between supply and demand globally continues to widen with each passing day,” he said. “Russia’s oil increasingly remains out of the market, crimping supply while demand rebounds ahead of the summer driving season.”
And what about moving those products to consumers? Diesel prices also set an average all-time high of $5.53 a gallon this week in the U.S. That doesn’t even take into account a major truck driver shortage right now. According to the American Trucking Association, the industry was short a record 80,000 drivers last year. Walmart officials announced in April they need drivers so much that they are now hiring drivers at between $95,000 and $110,000 a year.
And, since April, Shanghai, the largest exporting port in China, has been in either full or mostly full lockdown because of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions. Look for more shortages again this summer as a result of goods now being bottled up with nowhere to go at the ports.
Truly, it seems like a world gone haywire.
And, in the end, the only thing that seems to really matter is the price of everything today is so much more than it was a year ago.
My wallet is much lighter these days.
I’m pretty sure yours is, as well.
Bill Speer recently retired as the publisher and editor of The News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.