The consumer price index climbed 7% in 2021, the largest 12-month gain since June 1982, according to Labor Department data released Wednesday. The widely followed inflation gauge rose 0.5% from November, exceeding forecasts.
Excluding the volatile food and energy components, so-called core prices accelerated from a month earlier, rising by a larger-than-forecast 0.6%. The measure jumped 5.5% from a year earlier, the biggest advance since 1991.
The increase in the CPI was led by higher prices for shelter and used vehicles. Food costs also contributed. Energy prices, which were a key driver of inflation through most of 2021, fell last month.
Despite a two-year pandemic, workers overall are more confident in their financial situation than they’ve been since 2014, according to findings in the eighth annual Stress, Finances, and Well-Being report released today by John Hancock Retirement. That said, overall stress still affects 72% of retirement plan participants surveyed, especially women (79%) and those 36 to 50 years old (77%).
Further, 71% responded said they had experienced stress, depression or loneliness during the past year.
Whatever the omicron variant of COVID-19 does to U.S. life insurance insurance claims, the delta variant and its siblings have been continuing to drive up the number of deaths of working-age Americans.
Some life and health insurers reported that an enormous surge of COVID-19 deaths appeared in September and then seemed to end quickly.
The latest COVID-19 Community Profile Report, which is produced by public health specialists at the CDC and another federal agency, shows that the overall number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people fell to 504,056 in the week ending Nov. 28, down 21% from the total for the previous week.
But, at the metropolitan area level, week-over-week changes ranged from a drop of 100% to an increase of 12%.
Stock traders today appeared to assume that the omicron variant will hit life insurers harder than health insurers.
The stock prices of Anthem, Centene, Humana and UnitedHealth all dropped from 1.7% to 2.28% — less than the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
The stock prices of Ameriprise, Brighthouse Financial, CNO Financial, Equitable, Globe Life, Lincoln Financial, MetLife, Primerica Principal Financial Group, Prudential Financial and Unum Group all fell 3.5% to 5%.
The stock price of Reinsurance Group of America — a company that insures life insurers against spikes in mortality and longevity risk — fell 9.58%.
In the first two weeks ending in September, the number of deaths of U.S. residents in the 25-44 age group spiked to 8,604.
The number of deaths of people in that age group was 22% higher than it was during the comparable period, and 57% higher than it was during the comparable period in 2019 — before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
In the first half of 2021, which included the January spike, the number of deaths of people in the 25-44 age group was 38% higher than in the first half of 2019.
There are about 87.4 million people in the 25-44 age group in the United States, according to the Census Bureau.
The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for Social Security benefits in 2022 — usually announced in October — could be 6% to 6.1%, the highest since 1983, based on Tuesday’s Consumer Price Index announcement, according to Social Security and Medicare policy analyst Mary Johnson of The Senior Citizens League, who estimated the 2022 COLA would be 6.2% a month ago.
The latest estimate, which is based on inflation of 0.3% in August, is especially significant as next year’s COLA will be calculated on the average of third-quarter, or July, August and September, CPI data.
The consumer price index for all urban consumers in August rose 5.3% over the past 12 months, and 0.3% from the previous month, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. (The CPI includes food and energy.)
Some U.S. states look as if they might be heading into a severe new wave of COVID-19.
Federal government charts illustrating trends in new case counts and hospitalization rates in those states are starting to head straight up.
Hospitalization rates may be a better indicator of outbreak severity than new case counts, because ups and downs in the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 might reflect changes in how easy and cheap it is for people to get tested, rather than infection rates.
Hospitals, in contrast, are likely to admit people with COVID-19 only when those people are seriously ill.
The pandemic has killed about 0.9% of Americans over age 65, and it has also reduced the number of babies born in 2020 by 4%, to 3.6 million, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
That’s the biggest drop since 1973, when fear of overpopulation led many U.S. mothers to give up on the idea of having more than two children.