September 30, 2022

It Was the Housing Crisis Epicenter. Now the Sun Belt Is an Inflation Vanguard.

That’s because a less-intense version of the rent surge that is pushing inflation higher across cities in the American south is beginning to play out in bigger cities in the Northeast and on the West Coast. Real-time market rent trackers that reported prices shooting up in Sun Belt cities last year are now showing bigger increases in places like New York, San Jose and Seattle.

Those market rent increases take time to trickle into official inflation figures because of the way the government calculates its data. Much as Phoenix’s official inflation numbers are surging now partly because of the run-up in market rents in 2021, nascent increases in big coastal cities could keep pressure on inflation in months to come. And the effect could be palpable at a national level: New York and its suburbs account for about 11 percent of the nation’s rental housing-related costs in the Consumer Price Index, compared to about 1 percent for Phoenix.

“Even if we get a slowdown in the Sun Belt, it may not be enough to offset what we’re seeing in other markets,” said Omair Sharif, founder of Inflation Insights.

Federal Reserve officials noted that risk at their July meeting, according to minutes released Wednesday, observing that “in some product categories, the rate of price increase could well pick up further in the short run, with sizable additional increases in residential rental expenses being especially likely.”

The Fed has been raising interest rates since March to try to slow consumer and business demand and cool inflation and is expected to lift them again at its meeting in September.

To date, much of the regional divide in price increases — from rents to consumer goods and services — has traced back to migration. People have been flocking to less expensive cities from big coastal ones for years, but that trend accelerated sharply with the onset of the pandemic. The pattern is playing out across both the Mountain West, where inflation is also remarkably high, and the Sun Belt.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/18/business/economy/sun-belt-inflation.html

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