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Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: Baidi Wang and Felix Salmon/Axios

Massive economic disruptions cause massive price volatility. That's the lesson of the past 100 years of consumer prices, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why it matters: By the standards of global disruption — two world wars, the Great Depression, the oil-price shock of the 1970s — today's 6.8% inflation rate, the worst since 1982, seems positively tame.

  • But that doesn't help consumers who suddenly find higher prices for almost everything.

Between the lines: Americans' average hourly earnings are at an all-time high of $31 per hour, up 4.8% from a year ago. When inflation is running at a 6.8% pace, however, that works out to a 2% reduction in real wages.

What happened: The pandemic upended the global economy. The whole world came to a physical and metaphorical halt. Supply chains were severed. Central banks reacted with ultra-aggressive monetary policy, pumping trillions of dollars into the global economy in order to prevent it from seizing up.

What we're watching: Markets are concerned, but nowhere near panic. Investors expect inflation to average 2.44% over the next 10 years. Their longer-term outlook is for lower inflation than expected pre-pandemic.

  • But the lesson of history is that when the world experiences a shock of this magnitude, consumer prices can remain volatile for some time.

Go deeper

Hope King, author of Closer
Jan 14, 2022 - Economy & Business

Record level consumer demand drops as high prices surge

Data: FRED; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Record levels of consumer demand are petering out as high prices cut into wages and add to household worries.

Why it matters: Shoppers will hold off on buying if goods get too expensive — a trend that if big enough could slow down economic growth.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker