Salaries not keeping up with slightly better economy, economists say

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- There's no question that our economy has been through a lot since the start of the pandemic. According to the Labor Department, consumer prices are up more than 8.5% over the past year.

"I just happened to check out something as simple as meat for beef stew," explained Houstonian Francene Young. "Six dollars a pound at a place that's considered a discount place."

At the Houston Food Bank, the need is down compared to the very start of the pandemic, but up since 2021.

"You're seeing the shortages at the grocery stores and the rising prices. So the extra that would normally go to us is not," explained president Brian Greene. "We're seeing a lot of rising prices which is causing less resources for us but also causing greater need."

But, economists say we shouldn't call this a recession.

"When economists use the word 'recession,' generally, they're talking about a shrinking in economic activity," said Christopher Clarke, a professor of economics at the University of Houston. "The economy shrunk dramatically back in spring of 2020, but by summer 2020, it started growing again and it's been growing ever since. In fact, it's larger than it used to be."

The country's unemployment rate is at 3.6%.

"The unemployment rate is super low. If you want a job, you can get a job," Clarke said. "And what's interesting is that those at the bottom of the labor market, who were hit the hardest, their wages are rising faster than inflation now. It's the people in the middle whose wages aren't keeping up."

"When you think about hyperinflation, Zimbabwe has experienced it, other countries have experienced that, versus recession and the Great Depression and some of those areas, it really doesn't matter to the person who is hungry, who can't afford rent, or is looking at foreclosure to their family homes," explained UHD Business Law and Supply Chain Management assistant professor Dietrich Von Biedenfeld. "Those are academic terms. The real impact is pretty much the same."

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