Empty Shelf at a Grocery Store Near You? Tight Inventories, Labor Shortages, Supply Chain Snags, Strong Sales, Soaring Costs

It shows how brittle the system has become in face of every new challenge.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Grocery-store shoppers are sporadically encountering portions of a shelf that is suddenly empty when a week earlier there was plenty of product. There are again social-media “reports” of purchase limits of some items, such as toilet paper (why is it always toilet paper?) at some Costco, or pasta at some Walmart, or beef at some Safeway, or whatever. You can buy all kinds of stuff, but you might not be able to get one or two items that are part of your normal list.

At fault is a combination of problems. Staffing shortages due to the difficulty of hiring people are now being aggravated by omicron, where employees that tested positive have to self-isolate and can’t come to work for a few days. This impacts supermarkets and their suppliers in a big way. Transportation companies, faced with soaring demand, already struggled with driver shortages that was further aggravated by omicron, and further aggravated by the recent snow storms first in the West and then in the East, entailing traffic chaos and closed highways.

For businesses that have been operating on their finely tuned lean-inventory strategies, it has been challenging for the past 22 months to keep the shelves stocked.

And the costs of everything have soared – which generates a phenomenon where inventories, measured in dollars, have risen to new records because the costs of the goods in inventory have soared. But sales are high too as the shift to working from home changed consumption patterns, with grocery stores getting a bigger piece of the pie. And supply, as measured in how many days of sales are in inventory, has plunged. So here we go.

Total inventories, measured in dollars, at food and beverage stores rose to a record $54.9 billion in November, according to the Census Bureau on Friday. This was up 4.1% from a year ago, and by 6.6% from November 2019, driven by soaring costs of those goods.

During the empty-shelves-period in March through May 2020, inventories dropped to $48.6 billion, same as in April 2018. This wasn’t such a big drop, but inventories had been kept so tight on purpose that, when demand suddenly increased, shelves became empty, customers walked out shocked and frustrated, and stores couldn’t maximize their revenues because they were out of product. It didn’t take much of a drop in inventory to accomplish that:

Supply as measured by the inventory-sales ratio was down to just 0.71 months (about 21 days’ supply) at the November rate of sales. The inventory-sales ratio (inventories divided by sales) is a standard metric of supply that cancels out the impact of price increases.

During the empty-shelves March 2020, supply plunged to 0.59 months (18 days’ supply) and then bounced partially back to the 0.70 months range for a few months. Then it ticked up in early 2021 to hover around 0.73 months. But then supply started tightening again and dropped to 0.71 months in August, where it has remained as retailers struggled with epic labor shortages, transportation snags, and supply-chain entanglements as their supplies struggled with the same issues:

Sales at food and beverage stores rose to $78 billion in November, the second highest ever, beaten only by hoarding-March 2020. The driver were price increases and the still ongoing situation of working-from-home that shifted some consumption from the office environment to the supermarket (this chart also includes the preliminary sales for December, which ticked down a tad):

This shows how the brittle the system has become: The supply chains, transportation, and lean-inventory strategies all the way up the supply chain, that worked so well through the Good Times 2019, have created all kinds of havoc when unforeseen factors, one after the other, became economic routine.

Grocery stores have been trying to stock up for 20 months now, to fill the holes and catch up with this historic surge in demand, but every time they make a little headway, new constraints and problems emerge, and they still don’t have enough inventory on hand to get over the hump, and they temporarily and sporadically run out of some items.

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  258 comments for “Empty Shelf at a Grocery Store Near You? Tight Inventories, Labor Shortages, Supply Chain Snags, Strong Sales, Soaring Costs

  1. Jay says:

    The pasta section at my local Wally World has been in decline for weeks now. So, I live in Woodstock GA, where we had 1/2″ of snow and everyone went out and bought what was left of the pasta isle. Virtually nothing was left. Even Orzo, freaking Orzo, was sold out.

    People, this is getting bad. Yikes!

    • Leo1992 says:

      Despite all that Wolf has been saying, Fed is still printing money like crazy and at has not slowed at all. So more money chasing fewer goods at a time when fewer people are doing productive work causes High Inflation and Empty Shelves.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Leo1992,

        “…and at has not slowed at all.”

        Nonsense. The Fed has slowed down as it said it would. On its last balance sheet, Jan 12, total assets were $8.788 trillion, this was DOWN from its Dec 22 balance sheet of $8.790.

        If you look at the Treasury additions, you will see the decline. And if you look at the MBS purchase schedule, you will see it too. But you need to know that the Fed buys MBS in the “To Be Announced” (TBA) market, and those trades take 2-3 months to settle, and the Fed books its trades when they settle. I’ve discussed this a million times during the period of quantitative tightening in 2018 and 2019, when the Fed ran down its MBS balance. So with MBS you have to look at the purchases schedule (and it will give settlement dates) to find out what the Fed is doing now, and you’ll see it on the balance sheet 2-3 months later.

        • Depth Charge says:

          Which means the FED will continue juicing house prices until late June, in the face of the biggest housing bubble in history. Dereliction of duty is an understatement.

        • Leo1992 says:

          Wolf, Look at 6 months trend at and tell me honestly if it does not look like a straight line.

          Regarding MBS, I would wait and watch.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          6-month trend is irrelevant when talking about the taper that was announced to begin gently with purchases after mid-November and whose pace was increased in mid-December. What happened before Nov 15 is irrelevant with regards to the taper.

        • Pea Sea says:

          Well, phew! I was worried for a minute that the Fed might be a little behind the curve regarding the biggest housing and equities bubbles in modern history plus raging consumer price inflation, but now that I see they’ve reduced their balance sheet by .02% in a month (hey, that’s almost as much as my bank pays in interest on my savings account!) I can rest a lot easier knowing that they’re on top of things.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          They’re so far behind the curve that they cannot even see the curve. But that wasn’t the question. The question was whether or not the Fed is doing what it SAID it would do.

        • Petunia says:

          Wolf,

          We believe you diligently use the data put out by the fed. The problem is nobody believes them.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Look, the Fed is bad enough as it is. People making up stuff about the Fed is just a distraction from the real issues with the Fed, when the real issues are right in front of us.

        • Depth Charge says:

          The FED is making up stuff, Wolf. Hard to blame people for doing the same thing. F*** the FED.

  2. Oji says:

    The system had become too efficient for its own good (and ours). A little redundancy can be a good thing.

    • RH says:

      Our vehicles, equipment, etc., became so dependent on parts from China that now (as their pandemic worsens due to their reportedly ineffective vaccines, fear of loss of face of their leaders, and so parts of China close) we face our own delays and glitches: e.g., reportedly, most equipment to unload their containers is from China. This will continue indefinitely, maybe for years, as new variants arise.

      • Pea Sea says:

        US container ports are not suffering from a lack of powered equipment parts. The shortage is of labor (on and off dock), space, chassis, and sometimes railcars.

      • RH says:

        Yes. I was only giving an example of how everything on shelves, except food, is coming from China. I am sure Chinese port, and factory closures due to the pandemic also aggravated the supply crisis.

        Like the E.U. countries’ Russian gas dependence, that dependence on China will hurt us much more soon.

    • ChangeMachine says:

      Remember all the hype about “just in time” everything, including staff scheduling (ie on-call slaves)? Who could have possibly predicted a downside to an anti-robust business model?

      • TimesAChanging says:

        Now it’s moved to a Pro-robot business model. Employers have no choice but to invest in robotic technology, even at the lowest denomination of worker needs. What happens when all these former employees are bored watching Netflix and need to go back to work. Ooops.

  3. polistra says:

    New constraints and problems don’t EMERGE. New problems are CREATED by governments. This is a long war of attrition to kill the working class.

    • ivanislav says:

      Authorities will use the problems they themselves created as an excuse to usurp greater powers. That’s why they created the problems in the first place. It’s all about control.

      • BuySome says:

        The True Theory of Management: All problems must be identified and managed. Any problems solved results in a need for less managers. Therefore, no problems may be resolved. Any attempt to define new problems will be duly rewarded according to their resistance to solutions. If you manage to understand the logic of this, you’ve now got a problem. Congratulations, you’ve graduated. There is a place for you on the creative management team.

    • Sams says:

      Are you sure it is only governments that create the problems?
      And in many cases where the problems are created by the government it is on behalf of the sponsors that contribute to the politician’s coffers?

      • historicus says:

        Notice how central bankers accrue more power with every emergency….many of which are a result of their misguided policies.

        • Sams says:

          Historic detail:
          Banks did support and promote the shift to nation states from monarchies. Less risk in lending to a state than a monarch that eventually will die. The nation state as an organisation may exist a long time.

          After a monarchs death the next may consider that the kingdoms debt was the previous monarchs personal debt and refuse to pay.

    • perpetual perp says:

      Of course the donor class has nothing to do with all this, even though they own all of it. Must the ‘gubmint’.

    • ChangeMachine says:

      Never attribute to malice that which can easily be explained by stupidity. Of course, the two can be combined to great effect.

  4. Gen Z says:

    Whenever chicken goes for C$2 a lb at my local supermarket in Toronto Canada, the entire chicken freezer is gutted before noon. The same goes for dishwashing detergent when it goes on “sale” for C$1.88 for a 750ml bottle. It’s crazy.

    • Kaleberg says:

      This used to happen before COVID too. There was a time I couldn’t buy cinnamon at any local supermarket. I would up buying an industrial size container at Amazon. Then it was flour. I think they had a flour sale. Then it was bacon. Granted, they had a few packs left but not the style I usually buy.

      The difference is that now Amazon is also often out of stock too.

  5. breamrod says:

    I live in Roswell ga. and my local Publix was flat out of paper towels and toilet paper. Other items as well. I’m getting that uh oh feeling!

    • Anthony A. says:

      Beam…here in Houston our stores are jam packed with TP! What is short, at least in the local Walmart, is “house brand” yogurt, the Lite variety. So I am forced to buy the premium brand at three times the price.

    • Robert Hughes says:

      SW Fla, Publix ditto, Walmart, ditto. Holes and gaps all over the place at a variety of their stores from Ft. Myers to Venice.

  6. Resjudicata says:

    Our local Publix was out of ALL chicken this weekend. Today they had legs only.

    • Resjudicata says:

      A week or so ago they had bogo chicken. Lol

    • Coffee says:

      I sent my daughter to get some chicken breasts for dinner a few days back. The local grocery store ONLY had chicken gizzards. We ate homemade hamburgers that night…

    • Top-GUN says:

      In eastern Virginia, just north of Yorktown plenty of chicken,, but wet catfood,,, none, not a single can, Wal Mart, Aldi, local grocery store,, zip..
      And cat is NOT Happy!!!!

    • historicus says:

      Resjudicata
      ” Today they had legs only.”

      Front or back?

      • Russell says:

        That reminds me of my childhood. Whenever my Mom served rabbit for dinner, we had four-legged chicken. My sister never questioned anything and was better for it.

    • Loren L Rogers says:

      Front or back?

  7. polecat says:

    Just wait till the trucking mandates kick in. It’ll be more empty than shelves, by far, cuz many of said conveyors will say ‘Oh F#ck This!!’ and quit .. just from the sheer stress of these onerous Dr.Suess compliances alone..

    Wanna eat some cheese?? Learn how to make your own .. from your own goat, cow, yak or whathaveyou.. If you don’t like that example, I have others…

    • Prince Gbanga says:

      I like yaks.

    • historicus says:

      The cross border vaccine mandate for truckers re Canada is now in effect. The U.S. vaccine mandate takes effect on January 22nd.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        historicus.

        There will be a shift. Markets are good in sorting out that sort of thing via pricing. Vaccinated truckers run the US-Canada route because shippers will pay a little more if supply of trucks declines. Unvaccinated truckers run domestic routes and might make a little less. It’s not rocket science.

        • Ryan Luoma says:

          Don’t tell that to the trucking industry on either side of the border as they say it’s going to cause major issues. Obviously this will be much more impactful to Canada than the USA as Canada is dependent on USA for obtaining many finished products including food.

          I hope you are right Wolf and they sort it out quickly but lots of people worried up here in the North.

    • Winston says:

      They have at the Canadian border as of 15 Jan. Trucker slow-down protest in operation at the busiest Manitoba-U.S. border crossing as of this Monday.

    • polecat says:

      edit: I should’ve typed in ‘Dr. Suess-like’ …

      I’ve always enjoyed reading the good Dr.. he would’ve most certainly come up with a better and even Less convoluted plan, rather than the disastrous dreck that Transpo ‘What me worry’ Sneech’s profoundly flunky crew came up with.

    • Petunia says:

      Heard a woman truck driver out of TX say the entire container backlog in CA is because the CA imposed restrictions on trucks nobody can meet. So the truck drivers don’t go to CA anymore. Not enough trucks meet the CA mandates(craziness) so the rest of the country suffers. Keep voting for these morons.

      • perpetual perp says:

        Fact check. 96% of all California trucks are in compliance. “About 96% of trucks serving California’s major ports are already compliant with the rule, according to Karen Caesar, an information officer for the California Air Resources Board.” I’m sure you have a *hit ton more BS to dessiminate.

        • Petunia says:

          per perp,

          Every truck in CA can be 100% compliant. However, that doesn’t tell you who isn’t driving to CA anymore.

        • Richard Greene says:

          That’s circular reasoning.
          Trucks not in compliance with the 2020 emissions rules would not be serving the major CA ports. This affected a very small percentage of older trucks.

          More more important are the chronic shortage of truck drivers, fewer young men interested in driving trucks and drivers failing drug tests not able to have licenses.

          And that’s assuming the problem is the trucks rather than slow unloading of ships.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Petunia,

        It sure is fun reading this stuff on the internet, but what this woman put out there is obliterating nonsense. She’s got an axe to grind and got the attention of the social media, and people are gobbling it up because it’s fun and fits their imagination.

        “So the truck drivers don’t go to CA anymore.” Holy Moses. Go have a look at I-80, I-40, and I-5, which connect California to the rest of the country. They’re full of trucks. Such ridiculous crap that this woman concocted.

        • Petunia says:

          Wolf,

          I know you love your city and your state, but the place is closing down by the minute. Just saw a video of the financial district in SF that looks dystopian. The guy who made it is surprised by all the businesses, he was recently frequenting, that have closed. The traffic was non existent as well.

          Also, haven’t seen any let up on the container ships on the coastline. I know how long it takes to unload a ship, because of the many experienced sailors in my family. This backlog is either deliberate or extreme ineptitude. I’m thinking both right now.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Petunia,

          “Just saw a video of … ”

          You have no idea how ridiculous this sounds to people who live here. I give up.

        • MarkinSF says:

          The advent of the World Wide Web has managed to create a space where anyone can create an alternate reality and then have that supported by other sites and views that “confirm” this reality. So anyone biased can select that reality as “truth” and find it supported by other sites. Instead of bringing the world together with understanding it has ripped us apart as people seek to explain away their misfortunes by blaming the “other”.
          I can cite articles that are unbiased with an historical run down that explains the state of trucking in America. But it would never pass muster because it negates what people want to believe.
          Funny, I’m reading a collection of stories and observations about San Francisco going back to the 1850s. Seems like California has been falling apart by the minute for over 150 years. Evolution is slow.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Yes, the 150-Year-Long Collapse of California. My new book :-]

        • Swamp Creature says:

          I heard there is a big Longshorman strike in the works on both the east and west coasts. If that happens the supply chain shortages that you are seeing now will something that you will you had.

        • polecat says:

          I’m sorry Wolf, but who DOESN’T have an axe to grind, considering there is virtually Nobody within the folk who run the show .. e.i. Our most esteemed Reps n Senators who fillate the Billionaire/Trillionaires wishes..

          Meanwhile Mainstreet continues to get remeamed, new business formation notwithstanding.

        • Pea Sea says:

          There’s no longshoreman’s strike “in the works” on the west coast. The upcoming contract talks between the ILWU and the PMA (employers group) will be contentious, though.

          What’s going on on the east (and Gulf) coast, I don’t know. That’s a different union (ILA), although they face many of the same issues.

          Log off of Facebook or wherever you’re reading this bullpuckey.

        • Pea Sea says:

          Petunia, if you really know sailors, then surely you know that sailors don’t unload ships. Longshoremen do.

          And those sailors surely have told you that when a container terminal has run out of space, chassis, longshoremen, truck drivers, railcars, or some combination of those things, the ships will take considerably longer to unload. Your sailor friends surely would have experienced this during the west coast container backlogs that took place in the mid 1990s and early to mid 2000s, which also resulted in photogenic scenes of ships backed up outside the ports.

          Are your sailor relatives extremely poor South Asians, by the way? That’s the overwhelming majority of who crews the container ships that visit the US west coast. Or do they work for Matson or Horizon?

        • Petunia says:

          Pea Sea,

          Between my grandfather, father, uncles, and cousins their experience easily adds up to hundreds of years at sea. My father went to sea at 15 and retired at 65. He was a founding member of the Maritime Union, with the broken jaw to prove it.

          I know more about the shipping business and ships then I care to know, and also about ports around the world.

        • mojo says:

          Hi Wolf,
          I have friends who are or where in trucking business and they are located in CA.some of them retired because CA mandate of some kind of special filter what needed for older trucks.also i think in LA ports only union companies can pick up loads.no independent truckers.on other hand friend who is in business for 40 years of trucking told me this is first time in 40 years that they (truckers)start to make good money.he is dispatcher now and have 25 trucks but this is first time according him is worth to do it.

      • Pasha says:

        I can tell you from personal knowledge, a fair number of trucking firms in the other 47 contiguous states wouldn’t bother hauling stuff to CA, even before covid hit due to those mandates

      • Pea Sea says:

        This is absolute nonsense. Not even bad interpretation of actual facts, just literally a falsehood.

        The only smog restrictions that are actually in effect on trucks in California have to do with the fleets of port truckers who regularly visit the container ports. Those are NOT long haul truckers. They do not come from Texas. They do not come from anywhere remotely near to Texas. They are local companies, and their fleets can be seen in places like Wilmington, Long Beach, and Carson, CA just to name some SoCal examples. Those trucks have been in compliance with the law for a while now. It’s not a new law.

        The overwhelming majority of visits to the container ports in California come from those local trucks. It is exceedingly rare to see a long haul truck driver inside a container port.

        And to be clear, a truck not in compliance with those laws just can’t be REGISTERED in California. So unless your imaginary Texas truck drivers who are turning down those imaginary hauls to the container ports in Los Angeles are somehow trying to register their Texas-based trucks in California because they enjoy paying our higher fees, the laws wouldn’t affect them anyway.

        Don’t take my word for it if you don’t want to, but I would suggest taking Wolf’s. This is Facebook hogwash.

        • Petunia says:

          Pea Sea,

          The woman who was discussing this lives in Austin, TX, owns a trucking company, and drives around the country. She is also a real estate investor and discusses/researches the real estate markets in all the areas she drives through. She might be a small business owner with only a small number of trucks, but usually truckers go wherever they can make money. I would assume she knows more about the trucking business, then someone who is not in the trucking business.

      • Digger Dave says:

        God forbid that we don’t have to live in smog-filled cities. It’s such a shame that we can’t just bring back coal-fired steam engines and because trucks need to move dammit.

    • ChangeMachine says:

      Anyone recall the shipping strikes in the 70’s and 80’s? I know Biden does. It’s almost as if they WANT disruptions.

      • Petunia says:

        I’m thinking they want chaos to have the ability to lock down the country before Nov. No, I’m not joking.

        • Reg Adams says:

          Maybe Wolf needs to eliminate some of the stupid comments that are put on this site, like that one.

        • Petunia says:

          Reg,

          It’s still the truth, even if you don’t like it.

        • MarkinSF says:

          Ah. The wisdom of the American people. Where do you hear this nonsense? It would be nice to know what would lead anyone to that conclusion. Do you also believe the election was stolen?

  8. Cobalt Programmer says:

    In the swamp, the situation was serious in some chains and in a few locations. Not all were empty but only the produce section and fresh items were not on sale.
    1. During 2020, toilet paper was missing but food was there. Now, 2022, toilet paper is there but food items are missing.
    2. The usual blame was on produce truck got stuck up in the snow in I-95. Extreme weather. Some other bigger chains were open and had foods.
    3. When its snow, people buy bread, milk and eggs. This time its different.
    4. Again, truckers cannot work part time for 40hours. They must be on part time and sacrifice the benefit of free market economy.
    5. Driver shortage exists in the whole DC swamp area. However, last time national guards refused the request to drive trucks and buses because buses have stick gear shaft.
    6. Schools want to go virtual but parents want to send their children to school because day care is costly. They also cannot go to work if kids are home. Now, schools want to open but no bus drivers. Even county buses are on reduced schedule because of driver shortage.
    7. Meanwhile there is health emergency in all the three states nearby in different names.
    8. Someone who do not have self control in eating prayed for the food supply to be reduced this 2022 as a part for new year diet plan. Please stop. Its working too much…

    • historicus says:

      ” During 2020, toilet paper was missing but food was there. Now, 2022, toilet paper is there but food items are missing.”

      Is this a gastroenterology issue?

      • Petunia says:

        No, it’s a political failure.

        • perpetual perp says:

          Must be the gubmint. Everything’s the gubmint. But the donor class that owns 80% of all US assets has nothing to do with it? So tired of far right BS.

        • Xavier Caveat says:

          Used to be that the Feds supplied 1-ply paper, but isn’t everything mostly digital now, making it harder to wipe?

        • Petunia says:

          per perp,

          I know the donor class controls the recipients of their largess. Blaming the puppet master or the puppets is equivalent.

  9. Rowen says:

    I’m not sure how widespread it is, but the clerk at CVS told me someone had purchased a ton of stuff to resell on Amazon. For many AMZN customers, there’s no difference between $10 and $20; they just want the product within a couple of days.

  10. ivanislav says:

    “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” says everyone needs housing and food. A local paper has an article on how to offset the costs of these; struggling to obtain the literal necessities of life has now gone mainstream. I don’t think anything changes until till billionaires and politicians fear lead poisoning.

  11. David Hall says:

    In Florida when a hurricane is forecast as heading this way, food and bottled water disappear from store shelves. There are lines at the gas pumps as people might rather evacuate than weather the storm. They put yellow plastic tape on empty gas pumps.

    In New England they take the bread and milk as soon as a blizzard is forecast. Flashlight batteries disappear as snow and ice might bring down power lines.

    • Donato says:

      Yes, from my (and my friends) European point of view is very, very funny. Almost ridiculous.
      I can see you never had a world war at home and your last big one was more than one hundred and fifty years ago.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        See the photo I posted below, in reply to your other comment. It was taken by MC01, who published some articles here. He’s Italian and took a bunch of photos of empty shelves in his hometown in Italy and sent them to me. I have relatives in Germany who complained about empty shelves….

        So there are empty shelves in Europe from time to time.

        • The Bob who cried Wolf says:

          I know this is about food, but I’ve seen the same thing at Home Depot with building supplies . The only reason I mention this is because you mentioned pictures and I’ve been having my crew take pictures over the last several months so when I have to explain to my customers why we had to go to three different stores on the same day to get stuff they understand. Let me know if you want to see those pictures. It’s truly amazing what we’re seeing.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          The Bob who cried Wolf,

          Thanks. Yes, it’s bizarre what kind of stuff suddenly disappears from the shelf at some particular store. Thanks also for the offer to send some of your pics. I don’t think I need them at the moment, but if I do, I’ll holler at you.

        • Redneck in Holland says:

          Until now I’ve seen no problems here in The Netherlands in our supermarkets. Also no noticeable increase in prices in the past two years.
          NatGas prices have increased quite a bit and auto fuels also some.

        • I’ve seen this as well at Lowes. Usually the stuff is on the top shelf and the shelves aren’t stocked. They have more items available only online, which is the hangover of Covid19. They have figured out it is more efficient to have a few employees pull the orders rather than many employees stocking shelves. My grocery is pushing pickup or delivery. You order the product you have a better chance of getting it when you need it. This is probably the future of B&M. See pix of the UnP rail yard in LA, gangs of people ripping off rail cars. Looks like under the tree Xmas morning.

      • David G LA says:

        What’s very, very funny?

        • Yort says:

          The Europeans are smart with the bidet toilets that don’t need much if any TP (perhaps to dry off). After using some off brand “sand paper TP” in 2020 during the TP panic (corn cobs might have worked better), I picked up a cheap $38 under seat “bidet” from Amazon and never looked back as wow, it is kind of luxury compared to the American way…HA

          In other news, I seen today XI gave our Fed his marching command economic orders to not raise interest rates much or very fast…so I guess we will see if our Fed works for China or the USA soon enough:

          Hong Kong (CNN Business) China is urging central banks in the West not to hike interest rates too fast to fight inflation as it goes in the other direction to battle a sharp economic slowdown.

  12. Brian Gibbons says:

    Where are the shortages occurring? I haven’t noticed this an issue at markets I frequent which are local but similar to the Krogers and Safeways of the world. I wouldn’t think CLE OH is on a preferred list for suppliers.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Check some of the comments here.

      • Brian Gibbons says:

        Yeah, I saw and was replying to the grocery store comments. The supply chain issues for manufacturers etc. I understand. Can some of the tribulations over the supply issue be attributed to those up the “food chain”, if you will, who can take advantage of the perceptions of the great unwashed as to what’s happening given the less than stellar reporting that many in the country consume?

    • crazytown says:

      Giant Eagle charges more for pretty much everything which probably lowers demand somewhat. You can make back what you were overcharged with the perks ;)

    • Janna says:

      I’m in the south and Publix this weekend had NO toilet paper. None, cleared out. I tried to find my kosher salt in two stores, no luck. I have been buying our dog food in bulk because it has been in short supply for months.
      Things are not right.

      • knowshitsurelock says:

        You do know…By itself, kosher salt is not kosher. Chefs like to use kosher salt ( coarse ground salt) because the coarse crystals are easy to handle and measure out with their fingers. You can grab a pinch of it and have something substantial as compared to table salt.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          kosher salt is not iodized, according to my understanding. But you can get other un-iodized salt as well (usually cheaper).

        • polecat says:

          Costco sells lots of (for now, anyway..) pink Himalayan salt. Would rather use that then the now ‘micro-plastic’ laden sea salt harvested, iodine or no..

          No self-induced plastinization of my bodily tissues!

        • Apple says:

          Salt comes from salt mines now a days.

        • Janna says:

          I have used kosher salt for about 10 years. That is exactly why I like it, for the coarse texture. We try not to eat out very often so I don’t mind paying extra for ingredients I really like.

    • wadge22 says:

      I’m in northeast Ohio as well. My girlfriend is a personal chef, so sees the insides of different grocery stores ~8 times per week. We’re talking Heinen’s, Whole Foods, Giant Eagle, Aldi, Meijer. She has recounted some days of empty shelves in a few stores, particularly in produce or dairy, although says it isn’t the norm. Seems like the same store will be fine a day or two later, and the other stores will be fine that same day. So no, not consistent or widespread, but yes, happening sometimes in our area.

    • Winston says:

      For one, there is a potato and potato product shortage. Idaho had the worst harvest in 20 years and a recent Mexican upper court decision rules that the ban on US potato imports into Mexico farther than 16 miles from the border, done to protect Mexican farmers, is not legal. The potential potato market in Mexico is 130 million people.

      • polecat says:

        Potatoes are one of the easiest garden crops to grow .. oh snap! I forgot …. nobody gardens anymore, relative to population size. One hundred years ago, before the mindless worship of ‘all-things-progress’, the inverse was the norm. Will be again, I would wager .. for those survivers who clue up!

        ‘sigh’

        • Apple says:

          No one makes their own shoes now a days either.

        • polecat says:

          If things were to get hinky enough Apple, then eventually small time shoe manufacturers could well pop up to fill the need for walkin treads … like many other needs in want by people, post some kind of economic policy travesty where big industry fails to deliver…

          assuming of course that the elite cray cray and their vassels don’t sleepwalk the public into mutantville via a little war .. whether nu-u-lar or bio, or both.

        • polecat says:

          ‘nuc’-u-lar – as in the best #43 vernacular. ‘;]

        • Winston says:

          See the outstanding opening episode of the outstanding 1978 BBC series “Connections” titled “Trigger Effect.”

          The vast majority of us in the developed world have been in a technology trap for a very long time.

  13. Hyperinflation IS the soft landing says:

    This weekend my wife and I emptied the freezer of leftovers / old items and loaded up on individual portions of beef, chicken, fish and frozen berries/veggies. Last month we installed a ULine metal rack in the 2nd bedroom and packed it full of dry goods, beans, flour & unrefrigerated items. Already have water filtration / dechlorinator, emergency food packs, solar lighting and propane cooking on hand. PM’s, crypto and cash as well. Lots of things you can do to prepare even if you’re in a small condo or renting.

  14. Moosy says:

    Yesterday at Costco with a new look:

    they still had all products but at many places the higher storage shelves were empty.

  15. Random guy 62 says:

    In our industry, metal manufacturing, not groceries… all of our stock outs and shortages can be traced directly to port congestion. Even our domestic suppliers get held up by a component that comes from overseas a few levels upstream. All of that seems to be due to a glut of spending on durable goods from people sitting at home and the stimulus checks.

    Can anyone shed light on what is holding up shipments of grocery store products? Is it mostly a trucking thing?

    The good news is that we are seeing signs of the crazy winding down. Our late shipment report was over three pages at its peak, and is now down to one page and shrinking. Supplier lead times are slowly returning to normal. If all goes well, we will start reducing overtime and pull back our own lead times to normal levels in March.

    Unless the government does something really stupid (fingers crossed) like starting a war, more huge stimulus or more lockdowns, I think we will look back on this supply chain mess with a sigh relief in another six months.

    Our prices are as high as they have ever been, but they will begin to fall soon if raw material costs keep on their current path.

    • Three days ago, Real Vision published an interview between Weston Nakamoto and a truck driver. According to the truck driver, the groceries are getting to the grocery stores, but based on what he hears, they are having trouble finding the staff to move the groceries the last 100 feet from storage to the shelves.

      • wadge22 says:

        My experience working in grocery tells me that’s not very likely. Those stores aren’t built with huge backrooms to store skids of product. If the freight isn’t thrown to the shelves, it’s on a pallet sitting in the aisles of the store somewhere and customers are tripping over it, or it’s riding around on the one six-wheeler that doesn’t get a stuck wheel.

        Particularly with produce, which is where I’m seeing these pictures of whole departments empty… where would all the cases be stored if they were delivered but not stocked? There’s no big refrigerated warehouse the driver can just unload to. You’re not driving a pallet jack into a tight walkin and plopping down skids three deliveries in a row.

        I certainly didn’t work at every store, but to me that explanation smells fishier than the seafood case the night before a scheduled deep clean.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          wadge22,

          “…that explanation smells fishier than the seafood case the night before a scheduled deep clean.”

          LOL gonna steal that from you. I’ll have lots of opportunities to use it.

      • historicus says:

        Yep.
        Then there becomes an issue of spoilage.
        Then the amount shipped drops…
        etc etc.
        Shortages, then prices up….
        spiraling effects
        But you can still borrow money 30yr money 4% under inflation to spec on a house…..
        world upside down

        • VoltaMom says:

          Some of the items that would normally go to the grocery stores are probably now going directly to the giant home delivery autobot warehouses, such as those Kroger has developed.

    • Dan Grinnell says:

      One of the BIG transport problems is, Amazon. I drive trucks, the one trailer I see MOST of, on any hiway, is Amazon trailers. If people would STOP buying the crap that they sell, and start hauling eggs, (or other commodities), the problem might just go a long ways towards getting fixed. The co. I work for hauls lots of food, and we simply do not have enough trucks or drivers to deliver all the food products waiting to be delivered. So we broker them out to other truck co.’s. It all eventually gets shipped, although sometimes a bit late.

  16. Brant Lee says:

    Next elections are certainly going to be up for grabs if people are forced to go on a diet in this country. It ain’t American and the last straw. If fast food and junk food aren’t plentiful, there will be fat-asses hitting the streets in fury and believe me world, we have no shortage of 45+ waists here.

    I’m sure the government will want to stock heavy soon and be ready when the new pickups start backing up in the food lines. Nowadays people don’t have no shame waiting for free food smiling at the tv cameras and the kids sitting in the back with McDonald bags saying “we ain’t eating that s**t they’re giving away”.

  17. Right, the economic crisis is due to just-in-time practices that were too brittle to absorb the shocks of a pandemic.

    If you are swayed by this argument, I have a bridge I want to sell you.

    Anyone who makes his or her career in the financial markets by definition believes in the inherent validity of the West’s economic model. However, for decades the West has been stealing resources and labor from the rest of the world.

    Rather than face that fact and its implications, so-called analysts find every other excuse they can dream of to blame for supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, rampant unemployment, asset bubbles, skyrocketing debt, and other harbingers of eminent collapse.

    Like the climate crisis, however, Western collapse will play out its logic regardless of what we make of it.

    Average global temperatures will surpass 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2025. Just as surely, the West will have to start paying for formerly free resources and labor or go without.

    Time to pay the piper. Free lunch is over.

    • economicminor says:

      The US consumer has been the backbone of consumption of all the world’s resources. Many people in the world make stuff for us or make stuff for those who make the stuff for us. Or grow food to feed all of those.

      Yes it is pretty crazy but without the US consumer the entire world has a bunch of people who have nothing to do.

      Why is the US the consumer of the world’s production? Mostly because we have/had space to put all this stuff.. Or we did.. Now one of the biggest growing industries in the US is Self Storage because we have way to much stuff and nowhere to put it..

      Things are changing due to demographics and competition for resources (scarcer than you think). They will continue to change but the systems don’t change quickly or easily as planning and development take years. The transition is going to be brutal as along with all this stuff came debt.. We were encouraged to buy it all on time and the space to put it on time and then along came Covid. And Reality!

      • Petunia says:

        The US is not the only country with this problem. China has cities which have depleted their surrounding resources and are now dying for lack of employment.

        China is also a global resource consumer. I heard somewhere they have been stockpiling food from around the world. I remember them saying China bought 50% of the global rice supply in the recent past.

        • XI just warned/begged the US Fed not to raise interest rates. At their end this looks like a slowdown. When the stores are out of food in China the politburo is out of a job. In the US they just vote Democrat :)

        • Sams says:

          Ambrose Bierce,
          When the shops are out of food (or people are out of money to buy food) I am not sure what place will be the worst, China or the USA.

    • drifterprof says:

      “However, for decades the West has been stealing resources and labor from the rest of the world.”

      Without exception, empires always do that. At the least, the less powerful entities in the world are required to pay tribute (unless they are too distant or irrelevant to maintaining power). The rulers / oligarchs of the empire use various methods to convince the central empire’s population that they are entitled to their standard of living.

      Some of the empire’s population are knowledgeable and cynical participants, striving for a big payoff. Others believe that their country or group are unique and exceptional, somehow chosen by God or whatever. Still others are simply ignorant, or willfully oblivious.

      So when the empire’s military and economic power decline, and another empire rises, most people are very confused and angry. That’s a good time to not be in the declining empire. Better to be in some non-violent area that stays relatively unaligned, maintains a civil culture, and pays whatever tribute is necessary.

      • economicminor says:

        Some have suggested that the Roman Empire collapsed due to supply chain issues. It was built on the energy of wood. As it got larger, the distance to bring in supplies became greater and more susceptible to stress and interruptions.

        To big to fail is a fantasy. The bigger they are the harder they fall is more appropriate.

      • Eugene says:

        USA will ve declining slowly for the next 20 years,the same as Great Britain. But GB is still relatively good to live since 1940.Better be in a safe USA,than a totalitarian China.Those 30% who have marketable skills will be o.k.But USA in a transition the next 10 yearsto a new 6 technological level .And USA has it ALL to be 1st again .It will stay number one with it,s ET and UFO technology they have since 1947.

    • TimTim says:

      Whatever you say, Comrade.

      • Pea Sea says:

        Nice rebuttal. You really owned him.

        • Augustus Frost says:

          Since apparently every single square inch on the planet falls within American sphere of influence and “national interest”, I have the sneaking suspicion that the transition away from the Anglo-American era (post 1815) isn’t going to go that smoothly, especially in an era of declining living standards.

  18. Tom H says:

    How much do retailers profit on a package of TP? Was wondering if part of the reason for shortages might be it’s a low margin product, bulky, takes a lot of shelf space, weighs next to nothing & has low value for trucking, and gets a lower priority than other higher margin products. I noticed in several stores here in NE Iowa there are no Saltine crackers- except yesterday I saw two boxes of the inedible generic brand with no salt. One might wonder if certain products are being deprioritized.

    • Kaleberg says:

      Everything at supermarkets is low margin. The typical store rakes in just a few percent.

      • Anthony A. says:

        A friend who spent his career in the mega grocery business told me that the big profits in the industry are made at the wholesale purchasing level, not at the outlets.

      • Once you average everything, supermarkets may be a low margin business, but most American supermarkets use a high-low pricing strategy. They sell some stuff at a loss and have huge margins on other products. A bottle of Coke might cost you $1.49 at the checkout line where price-insensitive buyers grab it right before walking out the store, but a 12 pack of the same product might be $0.99 after making use of all available coupons and discounts.

        • Augustus Frost says:

          2% milk at the store near me is $2.99 per gallon, up from $2.69 recently. It was $1.65 at my store when I started working in this chain in 1981.

    • andy says:

      Well, who needs toilet paper when there is no food. It’s only logical.

  19. Kaleberg says:

    At least we had a relatively good excuse. There was a monster Christmas storm leaving us with 18″ of snow and closing all of the passes through the Cascades. The temperatures stayed low for a week. The passes were closed for four days and then some. Needless to say, this sort of slowed things down. I’m still waiting for a few delayed deliveries.

    It’s hard to pin this on the government. They did a good job of plowing, dynamiting and what not, but there was a lot of snow.

  20. historicus says:

    Shop at a big chain grocery

    Only a couple of manned check out lanes open…
    the self check out was a waiting line….
    the manned checkout lines were backed up the food aisles
    and the phone was ringing at the service desk and no one to pick up…
    this struck me as PRE PANIC conditions…
    not yet, but close.

    Imagine the stores not being able to man the mechanism to move the food.
    Next is the supply chain back up and spoilage.
    Then the suppliers trim back their shipping …and bang, you have shortages and other bad things.

    Inflation is a terrible thing…….coupled with COVID …. a very bad cocktail.

    • Augustus Frost says:

      I used to work at Kroger in high school and college, throughout the 80’s.

      I see very few employees in the one near me, no matter when I go. They found a way to eliminate most of the staff to make more money.

      I always use the self-check-out for the reason you give but go early to avoid longer lines. Service sucks and never would have been allowed (or tolerated) when I worked there. Aside from limited check-out, it’s not uncommon to find no grocery carts. Have to go grab one from the parking lot.

      I only go there because there are items for my mother unavailable elsewhere.

      Didn’t shop there before the pandemic but doubt it was much different. Knowing the company culture, doubt it’s isolated to this store either.

    • Swamp Creature says:

      historicus

      You forgot to add in a snowstorm. around here they can’t handle 2 inches of snow.

  21. Truckman says:

    I might want to pop out for a few groceries again in April..can you run an update then, please, Wolf?
    ;)

  22. Donato says:

    Hi Wolf,
    It’s always a pleasure to read you and yes, I contributed as well :)
    I’m Italian and I moved here eleven years ago at the age of 44.
    I suppose you won’t be surprised, but many of the problems US is facing are almost non-existent all over Europe.
    The empty shelf is a great example. Given my experience, I consider it the obvious result of completely wrong industrial policies perpetuated for many years (I’m not left and I’m not right, I’m agnostic).
    US had iper-concentrated its production sites on the hands of very, very companies. Especially raw materials and derivatives. This brings enormous scale economies (and enormous profits) but without the redundancy that the civilized world has, the risks become extremely high.
    To add insult to injury, 70% of this economy is just sales and almost everything is produced (at the lowest possible quality, you know that as well) somewhere else.
    To tell a long short, in Italy (a great manufacturing country, indeed) they had a certain scarcity on the shelves in the first two-three weeks of this pandemic, only.
    Nothing else.
    I already know someone will think something like: “How is it possible ? This is America!”
    Have a good day and thanks!

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Donato,

      ” … many of the problems US is facing are almost non-existent all over Europe. The empty shelf is a great example.”

      An Italian who wrote some articles here, MCO1, took some photos of empty shelves in his town in Italy and sent them to me, including this one which I published a while back:

      • Asul says:

        Sorry Wolf, but you are trying to portray a picture of an entire country (Italy) on the basis of a picture some guy took. As I live near the Italian border, I have to agree, that the shelves are not empty. And they are not empty in Italy, Austria, Slovenia … the three countries I’ve been in the 3 last days. So, if it true, that there are shortages of food in the US, it really is an US problem.
        It is however true that prices have gone up in Europe, approx. 5-9 percent for food and 10% for meat.

        • Sams says:

          I am also in Europa, in a country where the food supply chain is very much regulated and managed by the government and other stakeholders. Still, there have been a trend the last years that more often some item is out of stock in the grocery store. Typical is one or two types out of three normally on the shelf for product is not there. Usually only for some days and then after a while something other is in short supply. My observation is, it do happen here too.

          Maybe to a lesser degree, and probably less obvious. And the stores often mask the outage by redistributing existing stock. Like there is bacon on the shelves, but only one kind of package by one brand. The two others brands that used to be there are not.

        • Truckman says:

          In the UK, my friends tell me shelves are 95%+ stocked but choices are down, maybe only 2 or 3 where there were 4. Items from distant countries like New Zealand (e.g. lamb, Sauvignon Blanc) can be out of stock for weeks then appear again. This is true in small towns as well as big cities. Prices are also steeply up, especially meat.

        • Winston says:

          “Sorry Wolf, but you are trying to portray a picture of an entire country (Italy) on the basis of a picture some guy took.”

          Same for the US.

          However, at the very large and normally well stocked Super Wally World store I shop the cracker isle was effectively empty; same for bread although there was one guy stocking from a cart that wouldn’t put a dent in the emptiness; major shortage of chicken and chicken products; didn’t look at the frozen potato section, but from the bazillion posts about potato shortages I’ve seen elsewhere…

          BTW, I went in the early AM when the shelves should have been full from overnight stocking and there were no pending weather issues in the area. The store used to be 24 hours operation, but those days are gone for good IMO. The store is in a high income area and when I first moved here and went to get something to eat around 10PM after a day of moving in, I thought the store wasn’t open 24 hours because there were only a handful of cars in the huge parking lot. It was open.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Your observations, my observations, Donato’s observations are all anecdotal. But when you generalize from anecdotal observations to the world overall, the way Donato did, it gets tricky. And when you base some crazy economic theory on these observations, the way Donato did, it gets even trickier.

          That’s why I used the counter example. Shelves in the US are NOT empty either in a generic sense. There are some items missing in different stores, weird stuff, one store is out of it, the other has it. This is not like in March/April 2020 when shelves were massively empty for weeks. Today, it has to do with the labor shortage, transportation issues, and other issues I described. But Donato based his crazy economic theory on a few items missing in some stores. To shoot that down was the job of the picture.

      • Donato says:

        Sorry, but the situation is not even comparable. It’s a pity you don’t believe you can’t make firsthand comparisons.
        Here, it’s endemic and persisting.
        My wife talks with her sisters and friends every single day and they almost don’t believe her. Plus, we are there at least twice a year.
        Here in Maine, for example, looks like there’s a strategic rotation of the missing items in order to satisfy all the different locations.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Donato,

          You came up with a crazy global economic theory based on your anecdotal observation. I shot down that crazy global economic theory with an anecdotal picture. A counter-anecdote is all it takes when you rely on anecdotes. That’s why I give you DATA in the articles, not anecdotes.

        • Swamp Creature says:

          I was in Safeway the other day. There were more people lined up to buy lottery tickets than to buy food. Only one checkout counter. Long line at the self service terminals. I noticed what looked like a lot of income challenged people shopping there. Their carts were loaded with junk food. So people with the lowest income get stuck eating crap which results in worse health and higher medical bills. Welcome to the USA.

      • Any shortage of guns and ammo?

  23. Michael Engel says:

    1) It’s all about higher markup, taking advantage of a bunch of lemmings.
    2) Kroger made a new all time high, on the way to $60+.
    3) Dollar General calendar : $1, another chain stores : $9.
    4) Food & Beverage sales : Mar 2020 a spike to ignore, it’s an all time high.
    5) Food Inventory : all time high : not Venezuela or 1992 USSR .
    6) NDX monthly : MACD all time high, soon a flip. T&K of the cloud too far apart.
    7) SPX monthly with a cloud & MACD : the space between T & K was never as wide, too high above the cloud.
    8) Small businesses IWM monthly : MACD flipped.
    9) This transitory inflation will soon be over. It’s a dead cat bounce.
    10) The Fed kicked Tawana garbage can as far as it could, catching the stench…

  24. Truth says:

    lol in the Philippines people don’t use Toilet paper, they wash, certainly better hygiene.
    I discovered this many years ago on my first trip there.
    This is all a created Inflationary situation due to no Law enforcement as I see it.
    Lots of things that are / were illegal seem to now be legal, I guess. We don’t really need a Politician anymore just a Cop a Judge and a jail.

  25. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    Over my 35 years in business I have the misfortune to deal with many failing business’s, both as customers and suppliers. They often have many problems and struggle on for a year or two before shutting down. One thing is always the same, every problem ( no stocks, can’t pay, bad parts , rush orders) are blamed on some short term circumstance like bad weather, employees out sick, shipping delays, broken machines etc. It is always a series of excuses till the whole Circus collapses. The excuses go on and on until the curtain comes down. For some reason it reminds me of our economy over the last 2 years.

    • Augustus Frost says:

      The similarity is not a coincidence. The majority of Americans are destined to become poorer or a lot poorer in the future. Government central planning can’t change it.

  26. Finster says:

    I can’t help but suspect that, once you zoom out from the details and take in the big picture, that this is at least partly a symptom of inflation. Money loses value when prices rise, but also when even if you have money, there’s not as much to buy with it. Either way, money is losing its purchasing power.

    • Eastern Bunny says:

      Money loses value when inflation is high but people will continue to pay higher prices for some time. Shortages develop when producers see that the government isn’t serious about tackling inflation, they withhold the products as no one wants to exchange real stuff for pieces of paper.
      Witness very low housing inventory, eventually no one wants to sell as the value of money isn’t certain given the persistent inflation.
      This is a very dangerous situation as it can get out of hand abruptly if the Fed keeps procrastinating.
      It’s mind boggling that the Fed is still buying billions in treasuries and MBS through March.
      WTF are they thinking if they ever started thinking about thinking?

      • Depth Charge says:

        The Federal Reserve is run by crooks, so it makes perfect sense they’d still be printing. They were day trading, front-running the markets on their own insider information. They are debasing the currency while profiting off of it personally. If we were still a nation of laws, these guys would be prosecuted for treason and imprisoned, awaiting the gallows.

      • Sams says:

        Or producers stop production as they do not see they can raise prices fast enough to compensate for higher cost. Like the greenhouse farmer here, the energy cost to heat the greenhouse did jump, but he was on a fixed price contract for the vegetables.

        Solution, when what was produced was delivered, he closed down. Now the greenhouses are empty and nothing more grown until either cost go down or he get better paid. Just with a little if the business get going again.

  27. Depth Charge says:

    I was just at the store and there were no empty shelves at all. Everything was fully stocked. I prefer doing my shopping at night.

    • COWG says:

      My experience as well… depends on the timing of my trip…

      Re store stock help… I have seen very empty milk shelves but the back stuffed with pallets of product… had I come later, I may have seen full shelves…

  28. Escierto says:

    Ever wonder how Russian shoppers felt before the fall of the Soviet Union – nothing on the shop shelves thanks to central planning. Since the Soviet Union was such a great success we have decided to repeat the madness here with the same results. What you are seeing is the decline and fall of the USSA – well deserved I might add. Another crummy empire with its boot on the throat of humanity bites the dust. Good riddance!

    • Winston says:

      “WE”?! They… The financial system was already firmly in place when I was born and I’ve never seen a ballot issue to change it.

      And for that matter, no “conservative” member of the US Uniparty has ever really rocked the boat and any flukes who make any serious attempt whatsoever beyond grandstanding to do so are destroyed one way or another.

    • Masked Ghost says:

      Escierto. I was under the impression that in Russia the government did the central planning.

      Here in the USA, if there is any planning at all, it is done on Wall Street by private business.

      Not a real good comparison. Although in the USA the big corps do own the politicians.

      • Escierto says:

        I read your comment and I fail to see how it’s different. In both countries an oligarchy controls the government which engages in central planning. The idea that the USSA is a capitalist country is ridiculous. If that’s true then the Chicoms are capitalists too – in fact our “leaders” are in bed with the Chinese and some of the most vocal China critics own huge amounts of Chinese stocks or have a spouse who is the owner of a company partly controlled by Beijing. It’s all theater!

  29. Anthony says:

    An intersting article that has come in just before the Canadian/USA vax, madness, mandate starts up. I’ve no idea if it will cause problems?? Saying that, it probably will, as everything they tend to do nowadays is aimed at making even more dosh for the super rich. So hang on in there.

    Oh, by the way it’s not just the USA. Keep going into Lidl to buy tissues to clean my specs. Empty shelves for the last ten days……and here in sunny England we seem to be avoiding the cold, snowy weather Europe gets every year, so no runny noses again.(and yes, my town is 53 degrees north)

  30. Seattle Guy says:

    Requiring COVID-19 vaccines for truck drivers crossing the border into Canada as a new vaccine mandate kicks into effect. Unvaccinated foreign national truck drivers are not allowed to cross the border into Canada as of midnight Saturday, The U.S. will also tighten its border restrictions a week later on Jan. 22. At that point, Canadian truckers will be denied entry to the States unless they’re fully vaccinated.

    Estimates that it will cut border traffic by 10-15%?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      There will be a shift. Markets are very good in sorting out that sort of thing via pricing. Vaccinated truckers run the US-Canada route because shippers will pay a little more if supply of trucks declines. Unvaccinated truckers run domestic routes and might make a little less. It’s not rocket science.

      • Anthony says:

        In an even world that would be true but there is already a shortage of truck drivers…..but it is a strange world now so anything could happen…..

  31. Realist says:

    Hoarding toilet paper is probably due to it being more comfortable to use compared to for example the Toilet Paper of Record, ie NYT or simply the fact that people have only tablets or smartphones, no newspapers to use.

    To borrow a popular cliché, shortages of cat and dog food aren’t probably due to retirees hoarding because pet food is nowadays surprisingly expensive stuff …..

    • El Katz says:

      Hoarding toilet paper may be due to catalogs (Sears/JC Pennys) being out of print and newspapers and magazines being delivered via an electronic device. It’s hard to wipe with an iPad.

  32. Pea Sea says:

    Duped once again, you mean, after being duped by the last guy, and the guy before that? Sure, probably.

  33. nick kelly says:

    My general comment about most of these comments:

    ‘Oh the humanity!’

    The vast majority of the last 40 years the supply chain worked perfectly. Now if the item isn’t there next day: ‘apocalypse’ Just because it, like, snowed?

    Here in BC we had some real infrastructure problems.
    The Sumas Prairie was flooded. It used to be a lake, til the 1920’s when it was drained to farm. City of Merritt was flooded and evacuated. This Sumas area big source of eggs etc. so for a while 2 doz limit. Now normal supply shipped from ?? Merritt still f7cked. The mud in houses is frozen like concrete.
    Highway and rail bridges were washed out. Now mostly fixed with incredible speed, working 24/7.

    With computer chips: a genuine shortage. But even there we get: ‘It’s intentional.’ As WR has explained there are comp chips in everything now and in the boring no- fun Covid winter, everyone bought stuff.
    How do you know this isn’t the Big Guys beating up little guys; the Big Guys are upset too.

    Prices? Here the prob is real. Fed, China, EU, pump in trillions: result is inflation. Who knew?

    But this is not Lebanon or Sudan or Afghanistan or the former Soviet Union.
    (Does anyone know if it’s still usual to remove wipers in Russia when parking?)

    • nick kelly says:

      Clarification ( aka., oops)

      This is a bit overdone, my comment about comments being overdone. Small biz is having a tough time with inputs. I know a guy in airplane repair who is having to wait for special aluminum for weeks.

      It’s this damn TP thing as though TP was a barometer of the economy. And all this food delivery mania. It’s not enough for the consumer to have someone cook his food, someone has to bring it. I know a house where they order about a hundred $ a day.

      So real supply problems coexist with imaginary problems.

  34. Old school says:

    I think the USA will get a “D” in reaction to the pandemic. Shutdown too much, threw too much money at people and created too much demand and shrunk supply. A lot or purchasing of low priority stuff displacing workers and transport for food and necessities.

    The alternate path as some medical experts tried to get across was to focus on protecting the vulnerable and let the healthy live their life. Hind sight is 20/20, but I think there will be a lot of scientific digging to see how we did and I think it is not going to score well.

    • ivanislav says:

      As soon as we knew the death rate was as low as it is, which was certainly within the first few months, the shutdowns became obviously terrible policy. You don’t quarantine healthy people to protect those who aren’t.

      • COWG says:

        i,

        The shutdown was to prevent/slow the spread and overwhelming hospital capacity…

        That was the policy, initially…

        Later on, turned into the clusterf*ck with incompetence at the gov health level…

        • ivanislav says:

          I understand that logic, but it was flawed. Look at hospitalization and death by age – once we had that data, we could have implemented a policy along the following lines:

          People over age, say 55 (or take your pick), could have quarantined, as well as people below that who have risk factors. The rest would have built up immunity, protecting the old and thus reducing spread, with negligible impact on the health care system that would be dealing mainly with the old/sickly who get sick despite quarantine.

        • ivanislav says:

          PS – I think a shutdown initially, when little was known, was arguably warranted. The information coming out of China seemed like it was a much worse disease than it is. Although on the other hand perhaps we knew exactly what it was from the get-go, having developed it in conjunction with the WIV.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Agree with your analysis OS,,, but really would give an F!
      Not that we will ever get an honest and thorough report from our oligarchy owned media if they ever do allow any kind of rational investigation.
      This is one time the web will actually do what it does best,,, IF WE THE PEONS are able to discern the reality behind the false stories, conspiracies, etc., etc., that will be widely disseminated.
      Unfortunately for our representative republic, discernment is a function of intelligence (of which there is plenty IMO, in spite of the propaganda otherwise, ) and education, which has been replaced by propaganda and brain washing and dumbed down incredibly in the last 50 years or so.
      BTW, I was a teacher in two high schools in the late 1980s and was astonished then by the inability of my jr and sr students to do basic arithmetic and English comprehension.)
      If you have the patience, take a look at the vast majority of the advertising on TV these days to see the very clear and obvious brain washing!!!
      And that does not touch on the use of ”subliminal” types of brain washing that is apparently still NOT totally illegal in USA and several other nations; d’oh,,, wonder why???

      • COWG says:

        “ And that does not touch on the use of ”subliminal” types of brain washing“

        Makes the old subliminal ad stuck in the movie reel seem like kindergarten, eh?

    • nick kelly says:

      That’s old school alright. Why vaccinate if you are healthy?

      Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the run up to the Mother of All Catastrophes: WWI.

      This era is surprisingly modern in some ways, they have electricity, radio ( not public broadcast) but it is not modern in medicine. One Brit MP has two young wives die in childbirth. TB, and Small Pox are rampant. Even 15 years after WWI people die of infected scratches, e.g., Carter discoverer of Tut’s Tomb. (it wasn’t the curse)

      Basics of particle physics were known, mass and charge of electron etc. but drugs were largely quackery. There are no antibiotics, nor will there be for another 25 years after WWI.

      In the vet books by James Herriot he recounts his despair of a small herd of calves he’s been treating for ‘scour’. Their eyes are sunken, they hardly move or eat. He expects them to all dead next day, but with nothing to lose he gives them a new pill. This is about 1935 and the pill is the first antibiotic. The next day it’s a miracle, the calves are almost normal.

      But it’s not a miracle it’s science. Next, Small pox eradicated. Polio, TB, rare in G20 due to science of vaccines. So why does this have to be re-explained?

      US Marines ARE young and heathy, but they have to boot out a few hundred because they don’t want vax.
      The Pentagon spokesman came up though the ranks. He was asked how many vaccinations he’d get: ‘Between 10 and 20 depending on where being deployed’

      What makes people think that if they exercise and take their vitamins they are immune to viral infection?

      In non-fiction book ‘The Hot Zone’ the lady is working with Ebola in the Level 3 containment lab. She is basically in a diving suit, air pumped from outside.
      She looks down, she’s cut the outer skin of suit with scalpel. She doesn’t think ‘no biggee cuz I’m healthy’ She thinks OMG, presses alarm. Earlier, the first time the CDC crew get to the clinic in Africa: the staff is dead on the floor. Viruses are real. ​

      The data is in. The reason for the US C-minus grade is
      a failure to fully vaccinate.

      BTW: all the stuff about money being spent on stuff is true and has nothing to do with medical science.

      Two years ago there were a few ‘it’s just the flu’ on this site including one contributor who was good in his area, just not medicine. They either migrated or were run off.

      • MarkinSF says:

        Thanks man. Great post. Apologies that it just doesn’t translate to the ignorant & stubborn.

      • Cookdoggie says:

        Wolf banned conversations about the virus. We’re still here.

    • Depth Charge says:

      It was an “F-” across the board. The entire response was a page right out of Rahm Emanuel’s playbook “never let a good crisis go to waste.” They have been waiting for something like this for decades, and the powers that be were salivating over it.

      Now we’ve got political chuckleheads the world over acting like dictators, as if they have the power to just tell people to do whatever the hell they feel like, but coincidentally not following their own rules themselves. “You stay home while I go to the finest restaurants with all my rich buddies, no masks of course.”

      Speaking of which, we were told early on that masks don’t work. Then we were told they do work. Then we were even told to double mask. Then it was back to “only certain masks work.” The confusion created by these liars destroyed their credibility and confidence in them.

      And none of the responses are actually based upon science or logic. When a supposed “vaxx” doesn’t even control the spread, why would you mandate it? It’s doing nothing!

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Depth Charge,

        I totally get why you’re so frustrated. I’m frustrated too.

        But if you want certainty, go to the Scriptures. They’ll tell you how many days exactly it took to create the earth and what came first. They’ve been telling you that for thousands of years, and never changed their tune, no matter what anyone finds out. That’s true absolute certainty.

        Science doesn’t work that way. Science is a process of finding out. Covid-19 was new in early 2020. There was no data on it at first, then data became available, but Covid-19 kept mutating, and it became a moving target. Now data is pouring in at an enormous speed. I’m stunned by how much has become known about those variants in such a short time.

        And yes, I agree, the government screwed up massively in early 2020, telling us not to wear masks. Japan, an immensely crowded country, relied exclusively on masks (no lockdowns, only encouragements not to do certain things…); and compared to the U.S., only a minuscule number of people died. The White House also screwed up massively in 2020 by politicizing masks.

        Then the Trump vaccine got politicized by some powerful right-wingers. They took one of the most important accomplishments to come out of the Trump administration and turned it against Trump. I have no idea why he put up with it. He should have crushed those people and taken full ownership of his accomplishment. But what these right-wingers were doing was political, and it hurt Trump, and it had nothing to do with science.

        In terms of masks, it was always and still is about probabilities. Nothing is 100%. You want to improve your chances. That’s all you can do with a virus. Even a one-layer cotton mask is better than no mask. Two layers are better than one layer. Some materials are better than others. K-95 is better than cotton masks. A N-95 respirator is better than K-95 masks… Nothing changed.

        Now we know that omicron is more contagious than prior variants. In other words, a smaller viral load can infect people. And so better masks are more important than they were before, but still a two-layer cotton mask is better than no mask. All you can do is improve your odds.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Wolf-thank you! A continued conflation of ‘science’ with religion (i.e.: not understanding that the scientific method is just that, and a never-settled,and eternal, quest, to boot) continues to plague an awful lot of the contemporary zeitgeist that demands ‘certainty’ in all things… (perhaps the witticism ‘…one makes one’s plans-gawd laughs…’ could help, here).

          may we all find a better day.

  35. Elvis' Bass Guitar says:

    What about the Jarlsberg cheese shortage? Anyone else notice that?

  36. Winston says:

    Monday, Jan 17

    Truckers and supporters protest vaccine mandate at busiest Manitoba-U.S. border crossing

    Aconvoy of truck drivers and their supporters assembled early Monday morning at the Emerson, Man. border crossing to protest the Canadian government’s cross-border vaccine requirement that began Saturday, January 15.

    The rolling convoy continued through the day on Monday north of the Emerson, Man.-Pembina, ND crossing.

    All truckers entering Canada as of January 15 are required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Canadian truckers will be allowed back in to Canada regardless of vaccination status, but unvaccinated truckers will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon their return and undergo PCR testing.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Winston.

      There will be a shift. Markets are very good in sorting out that sort of thing via pricing. Vaccinated truckers run the US-Canada route because shippers will pay a little more if supply of trucks declines. Unvaccinated truckers run domestic routes and might make a little less. It’s not rocket science.

    • ivanislav says:

      Economic blockade is considered an act of war between countries. But when it is applied to individuals and their jobs domestically, apparently it’s all good.

    • Pea Sea says:

      They’re tryin to take away muh Constitutional right to spread disease on their soil!

  37. John H. says:

    Most of this discussion thread has centered around the supply side of the equation. Seems to me that at least as important is the DEMAND shock that began in February 2020.

    The public health policy-making juggernaut teamed up with main stream media in a way that inspired fear of shortages. The public response was both logical and predictable.

    The same has happened with cataclysmic reports of omicron contagion. What should be hailed as a potential beginning-of-the-end of the covid episode is portrayed as extension of the emergency. (But where are the omicron deaths?)

    So the rolling disasters continue – Covid, Delta, inflation, shortages, supply-chain – and each one demands heroic public policy responses. Of course consumers panic.

    Omnipotent government loves disaster!

  38. ivanislav says:

    “I’m going to end the ______”. You know what I’m talkin about. Well it did the trick, he got elected by the ever wise American people.

  39. Peanut Gallery says:

    A little austerity never hurt anyone. Suck it up people, cmon.

    • Old school says:

      Even though it has none letters to politicians and central bankers, austerity is a four letter word.

  40. MiTurn says:

    I bought a mini-bake (adult-sized trail version by Coleman), that while US branded is made in China. But the travails of trying to get it actually into my hands has been interesting.

    I’ve been wanting this particular model for about six months. During that time I’ve watched this two-wheeler go from $600 to $1100 in price because of a shortages. And when advertised at prices nearer the bottom on various internet sites, it was always ‘out of stock.’ And then suddenly they would be available everywhere, even on sale. This was so for months — they’d go from being overpriced to sale priced, all within a few weeks. On Christmas I pulled the trigger and ordered one from Tractor Supply — $650 + tax and shipping. It was both on sale and available.

    It was supposed to show up in three days at the store. It took three weeks. Interestingly, the tracking link given to me by the vendor always said ‘item shipped, but awaiting carrier.’ There were some sort of shipping glitch with Conway, the trucker from the warehouse to the store. And then suddenly it showed up at the store, but the tracking was never updated.

    Weird all around. But an increasingly typical experience.

    Now I just got to wait for the snow to melt to ride it.

    • Nemo 300 BLK says:

      I bought one for my wife about five years ago from Walmart for $599. Last year, I bought a torque converter conversion kit for it to get rid of the clutch. It now runs like a raped aped and pulls wheelies.

      Needless to say, the wife no longer rides it. She now cruised the neighborhood on a Honda Metropolitan scooter.

      • MiTurn says:

        I’m tempted to upgrade the motor, but first I got to see what it’ll do…once the snow melts. La Niña and all that.

  41. Swamp Creature says:

    10 year note breaks into new high. Crude makes new high. Inflation out of control. Stock market crashing. Shortages and Covid testing lines enerywhere. This is the Jimmy Carter 2.0 economy on steroids. Jim Cramer was s$hitting in his pants this morning on CNBC.

    • Peanut Gallery says:

      Let’s not call a 1-2% drop a market “crash”. That is MSM-level hyperbole right there lol

      The smart money is slowly moving to cash in anticipation of fed movement. That’s all that it is.

      • Swamp Creature says:

        Peanut Gallery

        More than half of the stocks on the Russel 2000 are making new 2 year lows every day. Same pattern with the other indexes. That’s a crash in my book. I don’t know what you are looking at.

      • Cookdoggie says:

        Another 20% down and I’ll start nibbling. At 70% down I’ll be all in again. So far it’s a nothingburger.

    • Depth Charge says:

      “Crude makes new high.”

      Remember when the dictator told us he fixed that by releasing crude from the strategic reserve? I never saw even the tiniest dip at the pump. Instead, it’s higher than ever.

      • Swamp Creature says:

        DC

        Yep, The dictator doesn’t know that releasing oil from the strategic reserve was for emergencies like war, blockades and natural disasters, not for the crises that he created. And not to help his falling poll numbers.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          The SPR peaked in 2011 and has declined ever due to various releases

          Three bills enacted in 2015 and 2016 — the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, 21st Century Cures Act, and Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act — collectively call for the sale of 149 million barrels in FY 2017 through FY 2025.

          The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 calls for the sale of 30 million barrels over the four-year period of FY 2022 through FY 2025, 35 million barrels in FY 2026, and 35 million barrels in FY 2027.

          The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 calls for the sale of 7 million barrels over the two-year period of FY 2026 through FY 2027.

          Since May 2011, the SPR has dropped by 16% through October:

  42. RedRaider says:

    The only thing missing on my list is wide egg noodles. Plenty egg noodles and extra wide egg noodles though. You make normal and extra wide but not wide. Really? Is there a special step needed for wide? Like cutting off a little from the extra wide.

    • MiTurn says:

      I can’t get my favorite pop — a house-brand diet root beer — for months. It is produced in Spokane and stocked in at least three mutually-competitive regional retailers. None of them have it. Instead the closest retailer to my home just fills the empty space with regular root beer.

      I talked to the manager, whom I know personally, and he said all sorts of items are backordered — but they avoid empty shelves by just filling the space with other stock.

      But life goes on, even without my coveted Merchants Craft diet root beer!

      • Peanut Gallery says:

        MiTurn are you in Spokane?

        We are practically neighbors ;)

        • MiTurn says:

          North Idaho, the red side of the blue-red divide. When shopping you can always know who’s from Washington as they’re the ones still wearing masks.
          :)

        • Cookdoggie says:

          Idaho is my new sanctuary. It was Montana until the bears started eating people in their tents.

  43. Gilbert says:

    The local grocery stores have been out of table salt for almost a month, with the exception of high priced sea salt.

  44. RedRaider says:

    News: Nonvaxed Canadian Truckers to be allowed back into Canada from USA. But not US truckers.

    Are we about to see retaliation from the US who, so far, have allowed nonvaxed Canadian truckers in unimpeded?

    Or consider nonvaxed truckers from any country of origin being asked to deliver to a major US city that has very stringent covid rules. You really think he’s going to get vaxed or, rather, say the heck with the delivery?

    The makings of one giant cl*strf*ck if you ask me.

    • Tom10 says:

      I believe Canada jab requirements was the 15th…and the US is the 22nd of this month.

      Apparently the virus is unable to make it across our southern border. Joe has it under control.

      Sounds more and more like an old South Park episode…..except it’s now our reality.

  45. CreditGB says:

    Simply follow the policy decisions made and implemented within energy, transportation, and subsidies of lower wage earners.
    It isn’t just the Feds either, look at States that strangled independent operators hauling freight.

    We can’t keep ignoring the obvious in search of some “enlightened” causes or viewpoints. It is a basic problem that has ignited wild inflation. Example: Just bought a machine that has been in stock since June 2021. Price went from $9,449 to $10,499 to $11,499 since December 1st. 20% in 2.5 months. When existing stocks run out there will be an “empty shelf” there too. Then, when stock becomes available again, it will be yet another 20% higher, same machine. That’s going to be 40% in under a year. Other makers are already out of stock on similar machines giving next availability as “mid 2022” pretty vague so they don’t really know. God save us from these policy “experts”.

  46. Yort says:

    Best stock up on hamsters as I seen Hong Kong culled a bunch today due to them being imported with the virus…J/K

    Fed mandated high inflation is an invisible hamster wheel for society. High inflation is very good for reducing the national debt and nudging the world into a global financial crisis so we can finally just have total world order though one single currency and one single body of power named the IMF. At this point, I’d have to assume that is a possibility as I’m running out of ideas why the Fed would not increase fed funds at least 0.5% instantly to “cull” 7-12% US inflation as they are anything but stupid, so there must be some sort of plan that most have no exposure too, yet. I fear they are discounting the possibility of a stagflationary nightmare that can’t be easily addressed through monetary means or fiscal policy…

  47. Too restore the supply chain would take years to replace the manufacturing and jobs that were offshored to China, assuming that US infrastructure isn’t too large a part of the problem. Do we really have a paper problem in the digital age?

  48. Trucker guy says:

    Supply is limited and choked sure but a lot of this talk about empty super markets is utter horseshit. Like the social media viral pictures of a super market that was completely wiped out. Nevermind the fact that the picture clearly has all signs in Japanese and is from 2 years ago.

    People in the South commenting must be new to the region. Everytime there is 2 flurries in the air the dum dums down there wipe out every Walmart and grocery store in sight. This has been going in since I was a kid in the 90s around Atlanta and all of the deep south. Yawn.

    Here in eastern Washington/ north Idaho it’s all blame Biden for this and that not being in stock. Nevermind the fact that the cascades got 3′ or more of snow in a couple days. I-90 was shut down for several days. Stevens pass afaik is still closed like 2 weeks later. Yawn. Again. Pretty sure the fed or Biden or whoever isn’t causing major snow storms and atmospheric rivers.

    We’re the most food secure nation on the face of the Earth. If we legitimately have food shortages, the rest of the world will be in flames as civilization collapses in 3/4 of the world. Fear mongering trash I say.

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      Trucker-to alter a Heinlein aphorism re: the economy: “…you can have a ‘just-in-time’ maximum efficiency system, or a less-than-max-efficient system containing numerous redundancies-you can’t count on having both …”.

      may we all find a better day.

  49. fred flintstone says:

    Due to the scare headlines….I would be willing to bet that every freezer and pantry in the country (for those that pay attention) is stocked to the gills. Thereby creating some of the problem. You can see it in that last chart. If folks relax the problem will go away…..except that the price increases will be inelastic. The thieves never miss an opportunity.

    • Depth Charge says:

      The media is running a 24/7 fearmongering propaganda operation to provide crooked politicians the cover to pass laws to ensure their totalitarian police state is fully enacted.

      • Danno says:

        People will wake up when their belly is empty.

        Hopefully they will have enough energy to revolt.

  50. Marc D. says:

    They were completely out of milk (except the non-dairy milks) the other day at my grocery store. My 2nd grocery store had it, though.

    • RockyCreek says:

      Why are people still drinking milk? Milk is for babies.

      Go to a dairy farm. Watch as they take the baby (if it’s male) from its mother. The mother puts up a fight. Both mother and baby moo for hours. The mother looks for her baby for days. Just so people can have a glass of milk? Now you’re consuming milk that has bad energy. Humans are the only species that continue to drink milk from another lactating species.

      Try oat milk, almond milk or hemp milk. Or skip milk altogether.

      • RedRaider says:

        And if we didn’t drink milk/eat beef how many cows do you think there would be?

        • RedRaider says:

          P.S.

          What other species has had the opportunity to drink milk from another species?

      • Em says:

        The China Study – free on-line pdf book by Campbell, I think, sheds light on milk and health.

        Check it out. It’s a classic!

      • Marc D. says:

        FYI I never drink milk by itself. I add it to things – cereal, oatmeal, recipes. But I do eat a lot of cheese. Big fan of that. I also eat goat cheese, which apparently is better for you – easier to digest.

  51. Red says:

    Costco has no limit on tp and paper towles in Oregon. I asked the associate he said they always had the product just not the drivers to bring it to the store. Also local Petco closed here due to not enough staff and no cans of cat food wife said before they closed. I said buy cat food cans on Amazon, she said price is now exorbitant.

  52. rick m says:

    Comparing Italian store shelves to US isn’t valid because:
    Different shopping traditions, different diets, preservatives/fresh, and different laws and compliance therewith.
    The EU has been in power, more or less, for not quite three decades. The preceding governments never lasted long enough to be effective, and are now benefiting from redirected German savings. Italian banks and business entities have a much longer history of reticence with Rome than bowing to Brussels. If the governing party can’t hook you up long-term it’s wasteful to pay them taxes. The country has had credit issues since the Fifties. I’ve read that they sold military and police real estate to foreign investment companies and lease them back. We haven’t had to do that yet.
    We have supply issues now, but as long as businesses are allowed to profit, they’ll find solutions. If you admit to profit in an indebted socialist country you’re compelled to live for the sake of others and pay their way. They’re there, we’re not, yet, but it’s visible from here. I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy, it’s unique in the world. it’s just a difficult place to do business coming from Northern Europe. Brussels won’t change that, ever.
    The United States has fed itself and a good portion of the rest of the world for longer than anyone now living. I love Italy and the Italians but they can’t say that, glad their shelves are full, hope they stay that way because it’s a wonderful place to go out to eat. Recent Eurovax-fascism excepted. Guess their truck drivers and stockers are not ill like ours.
    We get hurricanes, so we’re used to empty shelves around here. And there’s been news stories for several years about crop failures due to flooding, drought and coming price hikes, many people have planned ahead to save money without being preppers, or admitting to it anyway.

  53. Swamp Creature says:

    I am getting sick and tired of spending 4 hours to do 1 hour’s worth of shopping to buy the same 15 items I buy every week. There are bottlenecks all over the supply chain starting with the ships off the coast of California, which the media is not covering anymore because it is old news and doesn’t fit their narrative. The manager of my local chain said the problem is not going away anytime soon and to get used to it. Shortages in everything, including the packaging materials and plastics to wrap things. Biden was on TV the other day saying there was no supply chain problem. Give me a break!

  54. Depth Charge says:

    I just saw this headline this morning and laughed out loud:

    “Chip shortage continues to hit autos – Ford idles plant, Toyota hints at missing guide”

    This is neverending. The supply chain was a complete and total failure. When a 50 cent part can completely halt a $50,000 product from being built, your business model is a failure.

    The people running the world are the dumbest of the dumb. They shut everything down for the sniffles.

    • Marc D. says:

      This is the downside of “Just-in-time” inventories.

      • Truckman says:

        Accountants will always back any measure that gives a bigger profit this quarter. The execs care about their bonuses – full stop.
        No one is going to go back 10 years and remove the wealth and pensions of the C-suite who thought relying on JIT was a good idea.
        No one is going to go back 10 years and do the same to the politicians who approved the same thing for government.
        We have a short-sighted system, collapse from extreme variations is therefore inevitable.
        We also effectively have an idiocracy in government, and a kleptocracy in business, which can and just have turned a significant crisis into an extreme one with a fine mix of stupidity and control-freakery.
        Read some history. Bad stuff happens, bad systems can make it much worse. It follows that swapping one political party for another when one is already in a hole will make no difference in the medium term. A paradigm change is needed.

    • Richard Greene says:

      The automakers use what chips they have to build the higher profit models, with few incentives/rebates, such as full sized pickup trucks, and even though sales volumes are down, their profits are up. Those who can’t afford whatever is available new, have bid up the prices of used cars and trucks, like never before.

  55. Truckman says:

    Mainstream media in Canada are saying today that there are likely to be grocery stores temporarily closed due to staff off with Covid, and shortages, especially if there is “hoarding”.
    Scuttlebutt is that shortages are more likely to be due to the vaccine mandate just introduced for truckers crossing the international border.
    Lockdowns are back too to deal with Covid, together with threats of taxes for the unvaxxed in several Provinces.
    Basically, the Governments (Fed and Provincial) have lost it, are doubling down on stupid policies, and getting increasingly nasty about scapegoating anyone they don’t like.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Truckman,

      There will be a shift. Markets are very good in sorting out that sort of thing via pricing. Vaccinated truckers run the US-Canada route because shippers will pay a little more if supply of trucks declines. Unvaccinated truckers run domestic routes and might make a little less. It’s not rocket science. Markets resolve those issues very well.

      • Truckman says:

        Depends on how many Canadian truckers are unvaxxinated.
        Still seeing numerous ads here wanting truck drivers specifically for cross-border work, none now for within Canada. Several months ago there were ads for both. I am guessing the unvaxxed have already switched to the intra-Canada runs.
        We’ll know the answer in a couple of weeks.

  56. Danno says:

    I’ve said this for a decade and now we are here….we are becoming CUBA.

    Just back from Cuba where to SURVIVE, the latest sport after waiting hours for public transportation is having those with USD buy ANYTHING in the only stores in the country that have ANYTHING to sell, then walking outside the store and selling it on the street at a 400% markup in the local currency.

    The only thing holding “it” together are the gov’t thugs holding baseball bats to stop a riot.

    Now I’m seeing the same situation here with people buying goods in store and selling it online…

    It’s coming and watch out of you have anything of value.

    I give it under 2 years before the shit really hits the fan.

    • Truckman says:

      I have been expected a significant major shift in the US, and by domino-effect the world, by 2025, since the year 2000. I continue to see no reason to change that estimate.

  57. Winston says:

    BLOOMBERG – “New rules requiring truckers to show proof of vaccination when crossing the Canada-U.S. border are cutting into shipping capacity and boosting the cost of hauling everything from broccoli to tomatoes.

    The cost of transporting produce out of California and Arizona to Canada jumped 25% last week as fewer trucks are available to cross the border, according to George Pitsikoulis, president and chief executive officer of Montreal-based distributor Canadawide Fruits.

    Shipping is expected to get disrupted in both directions, with the U.S. set to impose its own vaccine mandate on foreign travelers on Jan. 22. Only 50% to 60% of U.S. truckers are vaccinated, according to an estimate from the American Trucking Associations.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      There will be a shift. Markets are very good in sorting out that sort of thing via pricing. Vaccinated truckers run the US-Canada route because shippers will pay a little more if supply of trucks declines. Unvaccinated truckers run domestic routes and might make a little less. It’s not rocket science.

      • Prophet says:

        As I read the comments and scroll down, I happen upon a comment that I’ve previously read and I think to myself, “Have I entered into an infinite loop?” No, that can’t be, for I am near the end of the comments section. And the time stamp keeps changing.

        Admire your tenacity, Mr. Richter.

      • Winston says:

        The US will require vaccinations for all truckers ENTERING the US starting on 22 Jan. Then, unvaccinated truckers being used for round trips at our Mexican border will be verboten.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Like I said, unvaccinated and vaccinated truckers will run domestic routes, vaccinated truckers run cross-border routes. The vast majority of truckers are vaccinated. So I don’t understand what this hullabaloo is all about.

  58. Richard Greene says:

    Other than toilet paper, there were no unusual shortages in 2020. The problems started in summer 2021, and had been getting worse every week until three weeks ago.

    I’d hoped we would see improvement, but I was wrong. Last Sunday was the worst day yet for out of stock items.

    I do a survey of certain products every week when we go grocery shopping, at the same time, on the same day of the week, in the same store that we’ve shopped in for decades. I write a short report for one of my blogs.

    Empty shelves had almost disappeared as the clerks found new ways to spread out whatever they had in shallow rows. And redundant items are placed in several different locations to fill up space, not just in the usual row.

    Last Sunday that visual display trick was not enough to disguise all the empty shelves, and low stocks, of quite a few items items.

    For example, there were 23 rows of Kraft ranch salad dressing, with one bottle in each row. That fills a lot of shelve space.

    I’s more than just empty shelves.

    Examples:
    We wanted an 8 ounce block of plain Philadelphia cream cheese, and there were none in the store.
    The store brand was on sale for $1 — none available.
    The 8 ounce Phliadelphia soft cheese tubs are almost twice as much money. There were 52 of them where there are usually 200, but not any flavor we wanted.

    Hillshire Farms 16 ounce packages of sliced ham are on sale. There are none. They have sliced turkey breast, which is not on sale, but we wanted ham.

    For packages of salami, only the cheap brand, that’s not very good, is available. Three better brands are out.
    So we’ll live without salami for a week.

    The sugar free bread and butter pickles are finally in stock. I wanted two small jars. But I I bought ten jars — — who knows if I’ll see them again?

    The ACE bread from Canada is on sale — buy one loaf and get 50% off the next loaf. But there is only one loaf in the store ! So we buy it.

    We shop at 6am Sunday morning, which is the first hour of the weekly sale at the huge local Meijers supermarket. For items on sale, such as two liter bottles of Diet Doctor Pepper for $1, I wanted four. There were six, so I bought all of them, leaving the shelve bare for the next shopper. I feel guilty for about 10 seconds. We hoard items that won’t spoil.

    Last summer the wife bought over 50 enormous size rolls of Charmin toilet paper in case there was a shortage, like in 2020. That’s enough for one year.

    These are strange times at the supermarket here in southeastern Michigan. The only good news is there’s no checkout line so early on a Sunday morning.

    • Random guy 62 says:

      Not pointing fingers or saying you’re wrong, but this natural tendency to hoard in times of stress is a major cause feeding these shortages. Yours is a great example.

      Most big plants of high-volume goods like pickles or steel or computer chips aren’t run with a ton of slack capacity. Ideally a plant runs practically 24/7, with some time for maintenance shutdowns to get the best utilization. Only a little bit of hoarding creates ripple effects through the system because plants can’t expand production instantly.

      Same goes for logistics. To be competitive in normal times, companies need to maximize their asset utilization. Trucking, for example, doesn’t have 25% more spare trucks sitting in the corner for a rainy day. Most of what they own gets used regularly.

      Then hoarding feeds on itself. Others go to the store and see empty shelves and begin to worry about availability as well. Then they buy a little extra, and it gets worse. It slows down when people run out of money or space and start to feel more comfortable about availability.

      It also feeds into inflation. Choosy shoppers pay attention to price and brand preference. Worried ones buy whatever is there. Then companies see that as a time to make hay while the sun shines. Their input costs are rising so they don’t want be the ones to get left behind. They jack up those prices ASAP.

      The huge stimulus measures were unwise because the idiots running the government don’t understand how goods get to market. Most of them are lawyers and academics with only a loose grasp on what we plebs do for a living. The feds know they massively overheated the economy but don’t want to admit it. I guess they saw it as the lesser of two evils. Too much slowdown and all the silly debt and derivatives in our joke of a financial system go kaboom, so they can’t let that happen.

      I am still modestly confident we will get through this by the end of the year, but to do so…we all just need to calm down, stop buying stuff we don’t really need for a few months, and let the factories, ports, and truckers get caught up with their massive backlogs. And for the love of Pete no more stimulus.

  59. A says:

    I think ultimately the stores moving from having enough cashiers working registers to “letting” people check out their own groceries is going to lead to lot of inventory loss, because when prices go higher and higher all the time, and service gets worse and worse, people are going to start thinking they should help themselves to a little discount…people who wouldn’t have even thought about that before. I think, like Just In Time, it’s a case of Penny Wise, Pound Foolish.

    Just went to the Discount Grocery today where I got a lot of good items that won’t be there next week. I’ve been stocking and stockpiling my pantry and freezer for the last year and a half slowly. Mostly because of prices and lack of availability.

    All this talk about not “hoarding” means that you spend more and need to make more trips and will not have what you want when you would like to have it. I think it’s better to buy a little more, when you can, and save it, than face the piper later when all the people talking about how it’s “just” supply issues, or hoarders, etc etc etc, find they can’t get what they need.

    Do you want to be prepared to eat for a few weeks so you have some leeway, or do you want to have to go to the store every other day because you don’t know what’s going to be in stock and it’s all limited?

    People, if you have access to a discount grocery chain, go there and stock up on whatever you like that’s a reasonable price and you can store. Bulk buying is also something it’s time to consider, for the price advantages, especially if there’s people who can divide the cost / use with you.

    Put it this way. When things hit the fan and there’s stress, money problems, a bad storm, or something big happening in the world, do you want to have to run to the grocery store and fight stress, crowds, and a run on the shelves for whatever you can find? Or would you rather stock up a little bit so you can pick your shopping days and not have to fight over a gallon of milk or some bread you don’t even like?

    I know some of you think that’s alarmist but seriously, have you ever tried to go shopping just before a BIG storm? Do you think it would be easier before / during a big world event??

    • A says:

      As for discount grocery stores, yes, there’s a reason they have discounts. It’s item overruns / misorders elsewhere, items that weren’t as popular, and close-dated items. If you’re careful you can get some really quality stuff for less than you’d expect to pay. I got uncured bacon for 1.99 a pack, & popped it right into the freezer. Extra butter (the fancy stuff) at a good price (for the fancy stuff, that is)! If I was in the market for ice cream I could’ve gotten a name brand for .99 cents for Neapolitan, half gal. Got 5 lbs of American cheese for 9 bucks and split it with my parents. Pay attention to dates / safety info, prices, and best practices, and you can do well for yourself. Not every area has these places, of course! But I feel a lot safer knowing I grabbed a few bargains at a store specializing in the overruns and odd items, and can save money and trips in the future because of it.

    • Cookdoggie says:

      I think self storage places should add refrigerated units so all you hoarders can store even more.

  60. tom21 says:

    Inflation? $800 for the last LP fill. Coop on ration deliveries.

    We need China and Asia to burn a lot more coal so we can get that
    global warming kicked into high gear.

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