Shopping hasn’t been the easiest task over the last couple years. Product shortages have hit nearly every store through 2020 and 2021, both as a result of people hoarding essentials amid COVID lockdowns and supply chain issues making it harder for retailers to get items restocked. And you’ve probably noticed that prices on many products have never been higher. According to Bloomberg, inflation in the U.S. has risen at the fastest pace in the last year since 1990, affecting prices throughout numerous sectors, from food to electricity. Experts say there is light at the end of the tunnel—but it may be further out than we’d hoped. Read on to find out when top U.S. officials say prices will finally return to normal.
During a Nov. 14 interview with NBC News’ Meet the Press, Brian Deese, director of the White House’s National Economic Council (NEC), discussed rising inflation in the U.S. According to Deese, the country’s increase in prices is a direct result of the COVID pandemic and the lingering problems it has caused.
“There’s no doubt inflation is high right now. It’s affecting Americans’ pocketbooks. It’s affecting their outlook,” he said. “We have to finish the job on COVID. We have to return to a sense of economic normalcy by getting more workplaces COVID-free, getting more kids vaccinated, so more parents feel comfortable going to work.”
Other top White House officials are echoing Deese’s comments. During a Nov. 14 interview on CBS News’ Face the Nation, Janet Yellen, the current Secretary of the Treasury, said that how long high inflation lasts actually “depends on the pandemic.”
“The pandemic has been calling the shots for the economy and for inflation … It all but shut down our economy,” she said. “It led to a dramatic increase in demand for products. Households were unable to spend on services, going out to eat, and traveling. They shifted as they stayed at home, worked more from home. They shifted their spending on to goods that led to a surge in the demand for products.”
Yellen said that when the economy recovers enough from the COVID pandemic, demand patterns return to normal, and labor force participation comes back up, inflation can return to normal as well. According to Yellen, this might occur by the end of 2022. “I would expect that if we’re successful with the pandemic to be sometime in the second half of next year, I would expect prices to go back to normal,” she told CBS News.
Yellen confirmed to CBS News that the U.S. is seeing “some big increases in prices” recently. Face the News moderator Margaret Brennan noted there has been a 26 percent year over year increase for used cars, 12 percent increase for eggs, and a 6 percent increase for both milk and coffee. But one of the most affected sectors has been gasoline, which Brennan reported was up by 50 percent.
“When gas rises—the average is now over $3 a gallon, in some places, quite a bit higher—Americans notice it and it makes a difference,” Yellen told Brennan. But she went on to say, “I just think it’s important to put inflation in context of an economy that is improving a lot from what we had right after the pandemic and is making progress.”
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Health officials have said that the only way to end the pandemic is by getting more people vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 58.8 percent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, leaving about 60 million people still unvaccinated despite being eligible.
According to Yellen, vaccinations have been President Joe Biden’s “top priority” since getting elected. “If we want to get inflation down, I think continuing to make progress against the pandemic is the most important thing we can do,” Yellen told CBS News.