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States Where Americans Are Struggling to Pay the Bills | Best States

As grocery bills continue to grow, Americans are grappling with how to get by.

Throughout 2022, the American economy and inflation were among the most concerning issues to Americans, according to polls from the Pew Research Center, Gallup and others. And not without warrant: Prices hit a four-decade high over the summer, though inflation has cooled some since then.

According to the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, conducted from Dec. 9 to Dec. 19, 91.8% of Americans reported feeling that prices for goods and services had increased in the last two months. More than 95% were concerned, whether “a little” or “very,” that prices would increase in the next six months.

Results of the survey also indicated that 40% of Americans found it “somewhat” or “very difficult” to afford usual household expenses in the previous seven days. That’s up from 30.5% when the survey ran in the first two weeks of December 2021.

Households in the South are having the hardest time making ends meet, according to the Household Pulse Survey. Mississippi (53.1%), Louisiana (50.5%), Georgia (46.9%), Arkansas (44.9%), South Carolina (44.7%) and Alabama (43.5%) all rank among the top 10 in the country in terms of people who reported finding it “somewhat” or “very difficult” to cover their expenses.

On the other hand, households in Maryland (30.4%), Colorado (31.0%), Minnesota (32.2%), Alaska (32.3%) and Massachusetts (32.7%) have managed more comfortably than the national average, with among the lowest percent of respondents reporting these levels of difficulty.

All that difficulty is creating a staggering amount of stress.

The survey found that 94.5% of Americans say they are experiencing some level of stress caused by the increases in prices, including 47.8% who see the situation as “very stressful.”

Starting in the spring of 2021, inflation rates began outpacing wage growth by significant margins, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though the situation has since improved some.

While inflation – which reflects the year-over-year percentage change in the price of goods and services – has ticked down from a peak in June 2022, it remains elevated compared with wage growth. In December 2022, inflation was at 6.4%, while wages had increased 4.6% year over year.

The overall consumer price index, which is the measure the BLS uses to show how the costs of goods and services have changed, has risen profoundly since 2021, but the impact has been felt most in certain consumer categories, including the cost of food, housing and gasoline.

Wage increases are often measured as the change in average hourly earnings each month, though because many employees experience compensation changes through annual raises or a job transition, this does not necessarily reflect the month-to-month financial picture for all Americans. Their wages may remain flat in a given month, even as the cost of living continues to increase.

While many Americans are feeling the pinch, economists hope that receding inflation rates will bring relief to those who are struggling to make ends meet.

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