The fact that the economy is the top issue for voters this election comes as no surprise. The rise in consumer prices and the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight inflation spare no American.
While hot button issues usually divide the political aisle, 79% of respondents in a Pew Research survey list the economy as being very important to their voting decisions, far more than any other category.
And likely voters seem to favor Republicans for the job, from bringing down inflation to dealing with taxes and creating jobs, according to a CNBC survey. That’s also no surprise, in part because Democrats have had the reins the past two years. Especially in hard times, the party in power loses favor in the midterms.
How has the economy fared since voters last cast ballots?
Let’s take it back to November 2020, less than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, with most of the country nearing a holiday lockdown.
Gas: Gas was $2.14 per gallon as the industry recovered from pandemic-destroyed demand. Today, Americans will spend around $3.77 per gallon to drive to the polls, a 76% increase.
Unemployment: Back in October 2020, 6.9% of Americans were unemployed, while September 2022’s 3.5% unemployment rate matches a 5-decade low.
Wages: Actual hourly wages have gone up nearly three dollars, from $29.50 in October 2020 to $32.46 in September of this year, a 10% increase. However, real wages, which are adjusted for inflation, are down more than 3%, from $11.33 in October 2020 to $10.94 now.
Inflation: Pay has failed to keep up with consumer prices, which rose 8.2% over the past year in September. A dozen eggs is now double what it cost during the last election, while the price for a new car is up 18.4% since then. Inflation in 2022 is higher than the country has seen in four decades, but just two years ago, inflation wasn’t even a thought. Consumer prices rose at a 1.2% annual rate just before the 2020 election as the economy continued recovering from pandemic-induced shutdowns.
Housing: The Federal Reserve is hiking interest rates to try to cool prices, a crunch that has had a huge impact on home buying. The week of the election in 2020, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.78%. By October 20 of this year, the rate was 2.5 times higher at 6.94%, and it continues to climb. The average price of a home is also dramatically higher, from $397,800 in 2020 to $525,000 today. Between these two data sets, that means that a 20% down payment on an average home is $25,000 more expensive, while a monthly mortgage payment has more than doubled in two years time, from $1,304 per month to $2,777.