Letter to the Editor: There’s no sign of retreating prices

Published 11:27 am Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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To the editor:

I enjoyed your article “Do incomes keep up with the cost of living?”. At first blush, the pricing of most of the 25 food items cited by Billy Shelton seems to have gone up a lot from 2009 to 2024. However, you never really answered the question you posed – that is, whether incomes have kept pace with the cost of this particular basket of food items.

From 2009-2013, the total cost of this basket of food items went up at an average annual rate of 2.9%. From 2013 to 2024 the average annual rate of change was 3.3%. Over the whole 15-year period the average annual increase was 3.2%.

According to  the U.S. Bureau of the Census data, the average North Carolina household income went from $41,906 in 2009 to $65,070 in 2022. The average increase was 3.45%, slightly higher than the change in Mr. Shelton’s grocery basket.

This suggests the increase in the cost of this particular food basket was close to the increase in income of the average North Carolina household. So then the issue becomes whether or not the share of income spent on this shopping basket stayed the same. The increase in the cost of other vital goods and services (home ownership and rent, car insurance and gasoline, education, etc.) increased much more. Overall, North Carolina household income in real terms only grew 0.5% on average from 2009 to 2021.

One aspect of Mr. Shelton’s list is obvious. The rate of inflation and the cost of living are relatively esoteric topics. What really frustrates the average North Carolina shopper is the levels – not so much the rates of change – of all these goods and services have soared, and there’s no sign of them retreating.

Peter Mooney,     Advance