Seeing empty shelves? Economist explains shortages, rising prices

Local

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — If you went grocery shopping over the weekend, there’s a good chance you noticed some shelves looking pretty bare.

ECONorthwest economist Bob Whelan explained we’re seeing several things happening all at once right now — ongoing supply chain issues, shipping delays due to severe weather and staffing shortages because of COVID-19.

Empty shelves were seen around at least two different Fred Meyer stores in Oregon this weekend, along with signs posted that read, “Severe weather has caused shipping issues, these items are temporarily out of stock.” Eggs, yogurt and milk were just a few of the items in short supply.

A spokesperson for Fred Meyer said they are “working with our logistics teams and the vendor community to help ensure products are stocked and available for the communities” they serve.

In addition to the lack of available products, the area is already seeing higher prices on some items because of supply chain issues. Whelan said to expect prices to increase even more this spring because of inflation and rising interest rates.

“There’s a tremendous amount of economic growth pent up and that’s going to cause prices to go up,” Whelan explained. “So there’s no doubt about it — you’ve got inflation, it’s going to start drifting more into rents, more into services and just be prepared for it… it’s just what happens when you put a lot of money into an economy to save it and it recovers and now you got to take money out.”

Whelan also said imports are 21% higher than they were two years ago before the pandemic. So people are ordering more items, like furniture and appliances, at a time when some companies are dealing with worker shortages because people are out with COVID-19.

He says this worker shortage is especially tough on restaurants and small businesses that already have limited staffing.

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