Dec 16, 2021 - Podcasts

The shortage economy of 2021

The U.S. economy dominated so much of the news in 2021. Just this week we learned that wholesale inflation in November rose at a record rate from a year ago. Axios' Courtenay Brown wraps up the year in economic news, and looks ahead to the new year.

  • Plus, how one church in Mayfield, Kentucky is helping its neighbors with tornado recovery.
  • And, tips on managing mental health this winter.

Guests: Dr. Jessica Stern, clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health; Minister Tyler Alverson of Seven Oaks Church of Christ in Mayfield, KY; Axios' Courtenay Brown.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Thursday, December 16th. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what you need to know today: how one church in Mayfield, Kentucky is helping its neighbors. Plus, tips on managing mental health this winter. But first, today’s One Big Thing: the economy of 2021.

The U.S. economy dominated SO much of the news this year – just this week we learned that wholesale inflation in November rose at a record rate from a year ago. Axios’ Courtenay Brown has that and the other big stories of 2021 in economic news – Hey, Courtenay.


NIALA: I think we have to start with inflation. Is that the one big thing of 2021 for you?

COURTENAY: The one big thing of 2021 for me, as far as the economy is concerned, is shortages, but this idea of prices rising at the fastest pace since I've been alive, right? Like that idea and shortages are very intertwined. One of the reasons why prices are rising so rapidly is because there's so much consumer demand and there isn't enough stuff to meet said consumer demand. It's kind of like Econ 101.

NIALA: And do we expect that will continue?

COURTENAY: This is the big puzzle that the federal reserve has to solve. Last week, the fed chair had to do a mea culpa. He basically has been saying that inflation is going to be transitory. It's going to be temporary, but it's not only stuck around, it's gotten worse.

NIALA: Another story that really surprised me this year around the economy was a lot of movement around workers rights?

COURTENAY: [[I think]] coming into 2021, no one anticipated that we would have a labor shortage considering the millions of people are still unemployed. But I think companies realized, you know, it's hard to find workers right now. So one of the things you have to do is, is bid up wages, right? And one of the other things that's come out of this, that's really given workers the upper hand is, strikes, strikes made a big comeback this year. And I think one of the things to watch in 2022 is this idea that, well, how much power do workers really have right now? And how long will it stick around?

NIALA: I want to go back to the thread that you keep returning to, which is shortages. And in mid December, there has been a lot of worry about supply chain issues heading into the holidays. Did we think this was the supply chain was going to so dominate our conversation about the economy this year?

COURTENAY: No, I remember this year, a source just mentioned offhand this may have been in January or February, what was happening at our nation's ports, that there were lines of ships essentially backed up. And I was like, what? Um, and ever since then, it's, it's gotten worse. I mean, Covid is obviously another big part of the story. Factories abroad have had to shut down because of outbreaks and what have you. So that's also thrown a huge wrench in, in the supply chain.That's definitely going to be something to watch for how those supply chains work themselves out, or if they work themselves out.

NIALA: So, Courtney, if shortages was your economic word for 2021, do you have one for 2022?

COURTENAY: I'm going to go with workers because I do think it will be interesting to see how, or if the balance of power shifts back to corporations, there will always be something interesting happening in the labor market. So that's a safe bet.

NIALA: Courtenay Brown is an economic reporter for Axios. And very in keeping with everything we have been talking about, we're very sad to say that you are leaving us at the end of this year. So I just want to say thank you so much for always helping us understand what's going on in the economic world and happy holidays.

COURTENAY: Happy holidays to you. And thank you so much.

NIALA: In 15 seconds: a minister in Mayfield, Kentucky shares the latest on tornado recovery.

Welcome back to Axios today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Houses of worship in and around Mayfield, Kentucky were hit hard by the tornadoes this weekend with some being completely destroyed, but many faith communities are also playing a role in recovery efforts, continuing across the South and the Midwest. I spoke to Minister Tyler Alverson of Seven Oaks Church of Christ in Mayfield just after he spent the day helping some of his congregation affected by all of this. Hi, Tyler, how are you doing?

TYLER ALVERSON: We're really busy. And at some points, it feels like drinking from a firehose, but doing all that we can to try and serve those who experienced great destruction in the community.

NIALA: What are the needs as you see right now?

TYLER: There are a lot of people who are without power and electricity. There are a lot of people who are in need of food, people who need things like blankets. It's going to start getting pretty cold at night. So, uh, anything for people to stay warm and to have full stomachs are really our top priority right now. We're having donations pour in. I've received phone calls from California and Michigan and New York and Florida, just all over the nation. Uh, we're also heavily involved right now and in construction work, tarping people's roofs, and, making sure that if people's homes were destroyed, gutting those. We have about 50 volunteers who are staying in our church building right now, who are going out and working, and anticipate we'll be able to serve a good amount of people.

NIALA: You know, it is December 15th, just before Christmas. It's never a good time of year to have a natural disaster, but this seems particularly difficult.

TYLER: One thing that people have repeatedly told me is that, as a result of this disaster, any kind of lines that we've drawn as people have been absolutely moved out of the way, whether it's race, whether it's socioeconomic status, or religion, or even what language a person speaks. So we're so thankful for that. And I think people need to know that.

NIALA: Well, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I appreciate it. Please take care.

TYLER: Yes, thank you very much.

NIALA: I have to say, this is the time of year when I am always counting down to the Solstice because I hate the cold, dark days, which can also be very challenging for mental health. And you add to that the uncertainty of what's ahead for the pandemic. This can also be a difficult time for managing depression or anxiety or coping with grief. Clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health Dr. Jessica Stern is back with us to share some advice on the coming weeks – Hi Dr. Stern!

DR. JESSICA STERN: Hi, it's good to be back.

NIALA: Can you share with us some concrete steps people can take to care for themselves and their mental health in the weeks and months ahead?

JESSICA: Absolutely. I'd say, first off, it's good to have a list of things that you can do that you will find enjoyment from. So things that you can look forward to, activities, things that can keep you occupied and things you can look forward to. And also finding ways to stay connected with people. It’s really, really important, and there can be a tendency to want to hibernate during the winter and isolate. And now is really the time to challenge ourselves whether virtually or in person to find ways to connect with other people in our life, in our community.

NIALA: Dr. Stern, at what point, should people be seeking professional help?

JESSICA: So it's helpful to know that during the winter season, especially in colder locations, feeling low, feeling blue is pretty common, but the times where it might feel more pervasive, it's hard to come out of it, and more importantly, the times where your mood and your motivation and your energy levels are impacting your day-to-day functioning. That's a time where it might be helpful for you to seek out a consultation with a professional to see if there's potentially a clinical depression there. And perhaps if treatment or some sort of intervention can be helpful for you. So that way you can live the life that you want to live and that you can carry on with your responsibilities and find a way to manage it at this season.

NIALA: So we are in the second winter of this pandemic, there seems to be uncertainty every time we think that we have finally got to a resolution, what are your suggestions for how we should be living with this?

JESSICA: I think what's tricky is that we were all hoping to have a set of milestones that we could reach such that when we reached the next milestone, we would know what to expect in the next phase. And so I think what can be really helpful, albeit difficult, is to change our mindsets a little bit, such that we nix this idea of having a concrete set of milestones and that we're more prepared for flexibility. Recognizing that it might be a windy road rather than a highway with on exits and off exits.

NIALA: Dr. Jessica Stern is a Clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. Happy holidays and thank you for joining us, Dr. Stern.

JESSICA: Of course. Happy holidays

NIALA: That’s it for us today! I’m Niala Boodhoo. Thanks for listening, stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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