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Inflation is Hip

Inflation is certainly surging, it remains to be seen how much of a problem that is. What we do know is that some regions of the nation, particularly cities where businesses have embraced technology, are surging ahead quickly. Some a bit too quickly.

In a nation already divided, the success of some cities is only accelerating the divide. If they become too successful their high cost may ultimately slow growth. But for now, the benefits of the recovery are heavily centered on a few places.

Life is good – some places.

Information on the economies of metro areas comes in a bit slower than the nation as a whole. It is derived from surveys conducted by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The monthly employment survey, for example, has a wealth of information on cities all across the nation. Unfortunately, it takes a few months of it to create a rolling set of data large enough to draw useful conclusions from.

For this reason, nearly all information is annual. Some final figures for 2017 have come in, and they show some distinct patterns.

Reading between the lines is not all that hard.

Private companies also have an interest in data like this, and simplified “teaser” versions are published quite often. The most useful for many people is probably the Bankrate Cost of Living Calculator, which can tell you just what you need to earn elsewhere if you are thinking of moving. After all, there is a tradition in America of moving on – when the going gets tough, the tough get up and leave. If you are interested in seeking new opportunities elsewhere it’s a great tool.

Which cities are seeing the most inflation in 2018? Here’s a short list from a recent study, this one taken from BLS data and Zillow home price changes, a good leading Indicator:

1 Portland
2 Seattle
3 Denver
4 Atlanta
5 San Diego
6 San Francisco
7 Dallas-Fort Worth
8 Phoenix
9 Tampa
10 Miami

These cities are seeing their cost of increase rise at about double the average rate from 2014-2017, which means 4% or higher in 2018. This is also a relative ranking of the “hipster” quality of cities across America, which shows that the phenomena attracting young people with the skills to generate disposable income is starting to make such cities expensive. This is not a coincidence. These are, indeed, the engines of growth.

They’re not all hipsters. They’re allright.

Away from various hipster paradises, costs are indeed rising nearly everywhere. In New Jersey, for example, relatively stagnant wages and retirement incomes are being eroded quickly by inflation. The use of food banks is going up across the state as a result, and a warning has been issued to the program that provides winter fuel assistance as a result.

That is the problem with growth as we have seen it generally. The rich are indeed the first to benefit and many people are being left more behind.

That is only going to accelerate for the foreseeable future. The new economy that is growing up is based on technology and trade, no matter what certain people might tell you about trade. The cities that will benefit from this the most are the ones that have the infrastructure and the knowledge base in place already.

In short, if you are thinking of following that great American tradition of going where the jobs are Barataria is not going to do anything to discourage you. Just keep in mind that it’s probably a lot more expensive in the cities that do have good salaries, meaning that the allure of high pay is not what it seems at first.

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