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Americans paying more at the grocery store as inflation surge hits 30-year high

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 9:11 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The U.S. inflation rate has surged to its highest year-to-year rise since 1990, the Department of Labor announced Wednesday.

That has resulted in Americans paying more at the pump, at the car dealership, and at the grocery store, just two weeks before Thanksgiving.

“At certain stores, I’ll be like, ‘Chicken this much? Oh no!’” Columbia resident Alexis Toney-Ryans said during a trip to the grocery store. “Things are a lot more expensive these days, but you know, if you’re going to eat, you’re going to eat.”

According to the Department of Labor, prices overall have increased 6.2% in the last 12 months, and the USDA’s Economic Research Service reports grocery prices are up across the board compared to last year.

Meat, poultry, and fish are 10.4% more expensive from Sept. 2020 to Sept. 2021; fruits and vegetables are 3% more; dairy is up 0.6%; eggs are 12.6% more expensive; and fats and oils are up 6.9%.

“The prices is still high for one person, and it seems like every store you go to, they get higher and higher,” Mary Hannah of Columbia said.

“While we do expect these challenges to be alleviated going forward, it is not likely to happen any time soon — certainly not in time for the holidays and the new year,” University of South Carolina Research Economist Joey Von Nessen said.

Von Nessen said the nationwide labor shortage is the primary cause, as employers are offering more incentives to attract workers, like increased wages. Then, he said, that rising cost for employers is partially passed on to customers, who are paying higher prices.

“I think consumers just need to be more flexible, and they need to plan ahead and recognize they may have to be paying a little bit more than they’re used to and may need to look for alternatives or substitutes, and they also need to buy in advance and plan that the items that they’re looking for may be in short supply and may take a little bit longer to be delivered to them or to be in stock at their favorite store,” he said.

Those increased prices are leading some South Carolinians to shop around more to track down the cheapest prices.

“I’ve been going a couple grocery stores, and the high ones, I go in there and get certain items, but for meats and stuff, I go to, you know, little cheap places,” Toney-Ryans said.

“I’ve been checking out different stores. They either don’t have it or the same price. But I’ve been trying to buy one and stretch it,” Hannah added. “It’s high, but you’ve got to live.”

Nationwide hourly wages on average have gone up over the last year, but Von Nessen that increase is not enough in every job sector to keep up with inflation and rising prices.

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