- January is only half over. It was and remains a wild month.
- The Omicron variant is fueling the largest wave of infections to date and hampering economic recovery.
- From flight cancellations to historic inflation, here’s what makes January a really weird month.
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January has been a wild month and it’s only half over.
The spread of Omicron infections around the world is causing millions of Americans to once again isolate like it’s 2020. Workers are staying home sick, and others continue to shun the workforce for fear of the virus. Consumers are now paying the highest prices in almost 40 years.
It’s a situation like we’ve never seen before and it’s only getting wilder.
The worst inflation since 1982 could ease, throwing American households into turmoil again
After living with historic inflation for almost a year, Americans have been demanding higher pay rises and companies have struggled to stock up on goods. But that normality is coming to an end, and inflation is now likely to cool.
The latest data shows that inflation was still high in the last few days of 2021. December prices rose 7% year-on-year, reflecting the strongest inflation since 1982, according to a report on Wednesday.
However, there is reason to believe that price growth will slow down in January. For one thing, Wall Street bank forecasts show that inflation will peak in the fourth quarter of 2021. The Biden administration and the
have said they expect inflation to fall from high levels by mid-year. Even ordinary Americans’ inflation expectations softened in December after spiking through most of the pandemic.
The data also shows that inflation continues to cool month by month. Prices rose 0.5% last month, slowing from November’s 0.8% and marking the smallest monthly gain since September.
Much of the improvement will come from resolving the global supply chain chaos. Bottlenecks are “solving in all the right places” as global suppliers ramp up production, JPMorgan economists Joshua Lupton and Bruce Kasman said in a note Tuesday.
If supply recovers to better meet demand, inflation is likely to ease faster.
Companies have empty shelves and too few workers
As Omicron hits peak times, service may be slower in understaffed stores this month. Or if businesses have resumed pre-pandemic practices, employees at your local restaurant or grocery store may be working with COVID.
Many companies have begun rolling back pandemic-era sick leave policies as vaccines have become available across the US. However, Omicron evades vaccination protection to a greater extent than previous variants.
As a result, more people remain sick without adequate paid vacation.
A 2020 Harvard study found that nearly 1.5 million grocery workers at 24 grocery chains, including Walmart, Kroger and Target, did not have access to paid sick leave. Low earners are particularly affected. Only a third of workers whose wages are in the bottom 10% receive any paid sick leave at all, compared to 95% of workers with wages in the top 10%, according to a national employee benefit compensation survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of America Labor Statistics March.
Omicron has also wreaked havoc in the supply chain, which has already caused grocery stores to struggle to keep groceries on shelves. And with labor shortages still severe, there are fewer hands to work on the farms, at the manufacturers, and at the traders. Even food inspectors have called in sick, Bloomberg reported last week.
Flights and public transport will be more difficult to access
Airlines have been hit hard, with hundreds of flights canceled every day. United Airlines reduced the number of flights after 3,000 workers, about 4% of United’s workforce, tested positive for COVID. JetBlue Airways also reduced its schedule by about 1,280 flights — about 10% of its schedule — this week because crew members fell ill.
Local forms of transit are slowing down for the same reason. Cities like Portland, Oregon, Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, DC are reducing their mass transit services as their employees contract COVID. The New York Times reported that more than a fifth of New York City’s subway operators and conductors were absent from work. In Florida, school bus drivers are not allowed to drive students to school.
And the mail is delayed across the country
Although the United States Postal Service (USPS) made most of its shipments on time for the holiday season, the Omicron variant spread among its employees. Around 6,500 postal workers were quarantined because of COVID-19 on Christmas Eve, a number that rose to 8,000, the Associated Press reported. The USPS declined to comment on the existence of positive COVID-19 cases from employees.
Cities and states across the country have reported postal delays such as: B. Minnesota, The StarTribune reports that garbage trucks were also sick. In Washington state, wintry weather conditions intensified with an increase in cases among postal workers causing delays. In Maine, some people haven’t had mail delivered in weeks, which the USPS blamed on the spread of COVID-19.
“This is an incredibly tough moment. The Omicron variant took off like wildfire,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a news conference last week, commenting on the delays from firefighters and ambulances.