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Hertz Car Rental. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Car rental prices are shooting up while travelers have fewer choices to choose from during the holiday season, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Driving the news: The shortage can be traced to a rise in holiday travel, which is near pre-pandemic levels even with COVID cases rising due to the Omicron variant.

The big picture: The car rental industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, but made a comeback earlier this year after the vaccine rollout.

  • Companies tried to restock to meet demand, but were unable to do so because of a chip shortage.

By the numbers: The average daily rental rate in the U.S. in December was $81, up 31% from 2020, according to travel company Kayak, the WSJ writes.

  • Pre-pandemic, the average rental rate was around $46 a day in December.

What they're saying: Hertz and Enterprise Holdings Inc. both told the WSJ that they are "taking steps to alleviate constraints" by moving stock and staff to high-demand locations.

  • Both companies also said they were trying to raise inventory by "non-traditional" means such as buying from dealerships instead of directly from manufacturers.

Go deeper

Retail sales slipped a surprising 1.9% in December

Shoppers in San Francisco on Dec. 22. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Retail sales fell 1.9% in December compared to the previous month, suggesting that shoppers bought holiday gifts earlier last year as they faced rising inflation and supply chain issues.

Driving the news: The data is much lower than the 0% change predicted by economists, according to FactSet.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine mandate after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees Tuesday that it has dropped plans to implement a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers, AP reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

39 mins ago - Health

Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

America is seeing more COVID hospitalizations than other wealthy countries during the Omicron surge, according to Our World in Data.

Why it matters: Vaccines keep the vast majority of COVID cases out of the hospital, but vaccination rates are also lower in the U.S. than these other countries.