Inflation rates are high nationwide. But the country’s worst inflation can be found in West Texas.
Data from Moody’s analytics shows that Midland’s economy is currently experiencing the worst inflation rate in the United States, hovering around 10% for the past six months. Katia Dmitrieva, who covers the U.S. economy for Bloomberg, said a perfect storm of high gas prices and supply chain issues are felt more acutely in Midland, which is about a four-hour drive from any major city.
“It’s just worse in Midland because it is so remote,” she said. “When prices go up, they go up even more for folks and businesses in Midland.”
And the effects are being felt by residents and businesses alike, she said.
“It has effects on the ground, and people experience that when they go to the grocery store, when they’re trying to buy milk, when they’re trying to buy bread,” she said. “The line-ups at the local food bank are growing moreso than at any point since the height of the pandemic.
“Businesses are struggling. They can’t find people because during the pandemic, gas prices tanked; a lot of people moved out from Midland. So they’re struggling to find workers. They’ve had to raise the price of their own services. If they raise prices for wages, their margins go down. It’s a vicious cycle. If you live in Midland, you’re feeling it.”
Dmitrieva also noted that while unemployment in the area is low, that “doesn’t say anything about the quality of the jobs, and it doesn’t say anything about the wages.”
She spoke with quite a few residents who have jobs – in some cases two jobs – that aren’t paying enough to keep up with grocery prices or electricity bills that have doubled or even tripled. Many have turned to charities that are also being squeezed.
“So far, West Texas Food Bank said they’re very lucky; they’ve got a lot of great donors,” she said. “But as we know, with fertilizer prices going up, that could impact the cost of how much these charities spend on their own supplies, whether it’s food, housing, equipment, lumber or anything like that.”