JIM SHARPE

Maybe uber-high inflation is behind the Valley — but it’s still too soon to celebrate

Sep 14, 2023, 2:15 PM | Updated: 2:16 pm

Even though, back in August 2022, we could’ve whipped out foam fingers and chanted, “We’re number one! We’re number one!!” — nobody did. That’s because we were number one in the nation — for inflation. 

But hey! Things are much better now.

So why — when people are using their ASU-just-scored-a-touchdown voice to scream: “JIMBO!! TIME TO CELEBRATE! ‘BIDENOMICS’ HAS SAVED US!!” — am I being Derrick Downer and cautioning my friends to wait before popping any champagne bottles?

Well, even though the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Phoenix metro dropped from a tops-in-the-nation inflation rate of 13% back in August 2022 to a 3.7% CPI rate this August, the price of many essentials is going up much faster than that overall 3.7% — and there’s already been a ton of damage done to the average Arizona consumer’s spending power. 

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the overall price of food in the Valley was up almost 5% over the last year. 

The food subcategory of “Cereals and Bakery Products” was up almost 11% year over year. And just when I think that I can use that as motivation to cut back on carbs, I see that the cost of fruits and vegetables is up 7.6%! And Restaurant meals (dine-in or take-out) were up 8.6%.

Rent was up 9.5% over the last year in the Valley; Household energy costs (utilities and energy services) were up 6.4%; and the subcategory of “Utility (piped) gas service” was up a breathtaking 16.2% over the last 12 months!!

The CPI category that all single parents have to include in their budget is “Tuition and child care costs.” Those were up almost 7% over the last year. Scary stuff, because if a single mom can’t afford child care, she can’t afford much of anything — because she can’t work.

That doesn’t make me feel like we can celebrate — and since BLS data shows that the cost of alcoholic beverages were up more than 5% over the last year, I don’t think many Valley consumers will be popping champagne corks over inflation.

In case I haven’t party-pooped enough, I’ll rain on your rager with this: Even if inflation is slowing — what about the damage that’s already been done by our previously obstreperous inflation?

Arizona’s median household income at the start of the COVID pandemic was around $65,000. In order to enjoy the same buying power today, you’d need to have more than $77,000 of income flowing into your household. 

Have you gotten a 20% raise over the last three years?

Yeah. I didn’t think so. 

Jim Sharpe

(Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)...

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Maybe uber-high inflation is behind the Valley — but it’s still too soon to celebrate