Despite the fed’s efforts, inflation continues to hover near 40-year highs and policymakers expect more rate increases will be necessary to cool consumer demand.
But experts say the results from those actions could still be months away.
“It’s probably going to be well into 2023 before we can look back and see if we’ve seen any material and sustained decline in inflation pressures,” said Greg McBride, the Chief Financial Analyst at Bankrate.com.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark short-term rate another 0.75 percentage points, bringing the central bank’s lending rate to a new target range of 3% to 3.25% — the highest level since early 2008.
McBride expects the labor market and the broader economy to slow down as the effects from the rate hikes set in over the coming months.
There are some indications that’s already started happening as the rising cost of borrowing hits businesses and consumers alike.
As mortgage rates have risen, the once red-hot housing market has responded in kind.
After a strong year in 2021, sales of existing homes have fallen, declining for a seventh consecutive month in August, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.
Credit card borrowing rates are also at the highest levels in decades. Today, the average credit card rate is 18.16%, up from 16.21% this time last year, according to Bankrate.
Federal Reserve data shows total credit card balances are now at a record high $900 billion, though that amount isn’t adjusted for inflation, according to the Associated Press.
Auto loans have also risen substantially over the last year, Bankrate found.
The Fed is hoping all of those upward pressures help curb demand and bring down skyrocketing inflation that’s running at an annual rate of 8.3%.
when will the labor market slow down?
Despite the swirling economic headwinds, the American labor market remains historically tight. The number of job openings topped 11.2 million in July, nearly double the number of available workers.
The most recent unemployment data shows the number of people filing new claims increased moderately last week but still remains near historic lows. It’s a sign the Fed’s efforts to cool demand have yet to substantially impact American jobs.
That could be a roadblock to lowering inflation, which means unemployment rates may have to rise before prices come down. Fed Chair Jerome Powell appeared to acknowledge as much at a press conference Wednesday when he said there is no “painless” way to lower costs.
Fed policymakers now project the unemployment rate will rise to 4.4% by the end of next year — up from 3.7% today.
McBride said he’s not particularly surprised the labor market is taking longer to react to the interest rate hikes and expects that to change in the next few months.
“The labor market is a bit of a lagging indicator,” said McBride. “By the time we get the alarming jobs report that makes everybody realize that we’re not in Kansas anymore, we will have seen a bevy of other indicators that have already told us the same thing.”
Fed officials expect to raise the benchmark rate to roughly 4.4% by year’s end, a full point higher than they had envisioned as recently as June.