Overinflated: Is There an End in Sight?
For truck driver Kenneth Fusilier, the prices at the pump have become problematic.
"I can't fuel up at a Pilot or Flying J," said Fusilier. "It's too much. It's over $6 a gallon."
As the owner and operator of Kenan Advantage Group, the record-high cost of gasoline is cutting into his profits.
"I just hope they do something about the fuel prices," said Fusilier. "It's going to run a lot of people out of the trucking business."
Besides fuel prices literally draining many people's bank accounts, inflation is spiking the prices on everything.
But how much more are you actually paying?
"For a lot of people, you just haven't seen price changes like this in your lifetime." said economist Steve Reed.
Reed is an economist with the Consumer Price Index, which determines how much people are paying for goods and services.
"We are collecting thousands of prices," said Reed. "It's about 80,000 prices a month in about 75 areas across the country, and we're using those prices to compute the overall CPI, which is often referred to as the inflation rate."
The most recent numbers are staggering.
All items are up 9.1% compared to last year, which is the highest it has been since 1981.
Gasoline prices are up 59.9%, while food prices have increased by 12.2% compared to last June.
"It's really across almost all categories, with very few exceptions," said Reed. "We see indexes rising in most cases, pretty substantially."
So how did we get to this point?
According to economics professor Dr. Kenneth Louie of Penn State Behrend, the pandemic has caused prices to soar.
"As we gradually recovered from the pandemic, consumer spending rapidly recovered as well, and consumer spending is about two thirds of the economy," said Dr. Louie. "With strong consumer demand, that puts pressure on prices."
The war in Ukraine is also adding to inflation.
"Once the war started, that certainly exacerbated things, because it disrupted the global oil marked," said Dr. Louie. "Energy was affected as well as the world food market, because grain is such an important export from Ukraine."
As the Federal Reserve increases interest rates to stabilize prices, the threat of a recession is on the horizon.
"I think eventually, what people are worried about, and we've seen this in the past, is that inflation won't really dissipate until there is a recession to bring it down," said Reed. "Recessions do tend to put down the pressure on prices."
Is there an end in sight?
"It's a little too early to tell," said Dr. Louie. "Perhaps in the next few months, we'll start to see how slow the economy, how much slower things will get and then based on that, perhaps give an estimate."
"The only thing I'll say is to keep an eye on energy prices," said Reed. "For the overall inflation to come down, we're going to have to see such extraordinary pressure from energy come down."
Fusilier says that can't happen soon enough.
"Already, they got a shortage on drivers," said Fusilier. "It's going to be a lot more than that if they don't do something with the fuel prices."
This story is supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.