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  • Evan Yadgarov

What is Happening with Inflation in the United States and is Recession a Threat?

Inflation refers to the increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. When inflation occurs, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services than it did before. Essentially, it is the decrease in the purchasing power of a currency. Additionally, inflation can be caused by a variety of factors, such as increased demand for certain commodities, rising production costs, changes in government policies, or expansionary monetary policies by central banks. While moderate inflation is generally considered healthy for an economy, as it encourages spending and investment, high or hyperinflation is calamitous for an economy as it leads to economic instability and can have detrimental effects on consumers and businesses. The most infamous instance of hyperinflation occurred in the Weimar Republic after World War I, when the value of the German Mark plummeted to such an extent that trillions were required to purchase even the most basic necessities like bread. 

However, it is important to note that the United States is currently nowhere near the extreme levels of hyperinflation witnessed by the Weimar Republic. In fact, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of goods and services, inflation readings in America have ranged from 3.1% to 3.7% over the past couple of months. This percentage, compared to last summer’s CPI of nearly 9%, indicates a relatively low level of inflation. In other words, the inflation rate in the United States is not increasing at the same pace as it was almost a year ago. Nevertheless, while the prices of commodities are not rising as rapidly as they were in the past, they remain higher than pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.


A recession is a significant decline in economic activity that lasts for an extended period, typically characterized by decreased gross domestic product (GDP), employment, and income levels. Various components, such as a contraction in consumer spending, a decline in business investment, a tightening of monetary policy, or external disturbances like financial crises or pandemics, can trigger recessions. This often results in unemployment and decreased consumer confidence and the production and consumption of goods and services. The most prominent example of recession in history is the Great Depression, which affected countries worldwide and took place in the United States. It was caused by the stock market crash of 1929, when stock prices plummeted, leading to a loss of confidence in consumer spending. As economic deterioration worsened, businesses cut back on production, leading to widespread unemployment. Banks failed, farms were foreclosed, and international trade sharply decreased. The Great Depression lasted for almost an entire decade. 


As of March 2024, research conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicates that the probability of the United States entering a period of economic recession before February 2025 is currently estimated at an astounding 58%. This figure represents the highest forecasted probability since the 1980s, suggesting significant economic uncertainty and potential challenges. 


References

Adams, M. (Ed.). (2024, March 12). February's Disappointing Inflation Numbers Don't Faze Investors. Forbes Advisor. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/current-inflation-rate/#:~:text=Annual%20CPI%20inflation%20readings%20have,as%203.0%25%20in%20June%202023.

Bisno, A. (2023, May 23). How Hyperinflation Heralded the Fall of German Democracy. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-hyperinflation-heralded-the-fall-of-german-democracy-180982204/

Consumer Price Index. (n.d.). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/cpi/

Milden, D., & Hall, L. (n.d.). Fed Rate Cuts Unlikely in March: Inflation Trends Upward in February, Defying Expert Predictions (T. Connors, Ed.). CNET Money. https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/banking/advice/inflation-interest-rates/

Moore, S. (Ed.). (2024, March 15). U.S. Recession Risk May Be Rising According To These Metrics. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/simonmoore/2024/03/15/us-recession-risk-may-be-rising-according-to-these-metrics/?sh=1694cb125f51

Which US regions have the highest inflation rates? (n.d.). USA Facts. https://usafacts.org/articles/which-us-regions-have-the-highest-inflation-rates/

 



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