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Good economy or bad? Why economists and consumers seem to differ

Columbia South Carolina, Chick-fil-A, fast food restaurant with sign advertising $15 an hour to be hospitable.

Unemployment has been below 4% for 22 months, a 50-year record. After hitting a 40-year high last year, inflation has fallen from 9.1% to 3.2%. As of the end of November, the S&P 500 has posted a total return of about 21% this year, the Nasdaq is up 37%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up about 11%. 

Gross domestic product grew at 5.2% in the third quarter, and the latest jobs report, which showed an addition of 199,000 jobs in November, has President Joe Biden touting an economic “sweet spot.” “The economy’s in good shape,” says Bob Triest, professor and chair of the economics department at Northeastern University. “It’s remarkable how inflation has come down without, so far at least, there being a recession that accompanies it.”

However, prices are up, especially for food and housing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, $100 in November 2021 has the same purchasing power as $110.47 today. Over the last year alone, the Consumer Price Index has climbed 3.1%.

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