Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Follow the Money

When I constantly complain about how I can't make ends meet, this is what I'm talking about. So enjoy your cleaning ladies everyone; I still won't be getting one for myself.

Since New York Times articles expire after a fortnight, here you go:

Cost of Necessities Rises in New York

A red-hot real estate market, high-priced orange juice and a ceaseless array of fare increases have combined to make it harder for New Yorkers to make ends meet than at any time in a decade, according to new federal statistics.

Facing prices on necessities that are growing faster than almost anywhere else, many New Yorkers have stopped buying books, hand creams and other discretionary treats, and have sharply decreased their charitable giving in the last few years. A New York family gave nearly 30 percent less to charity on average in 2003 than in 2000, the statistics show.

Between 2000 and 2003, according to figures released on Monday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, spending among New Yorkers rose 4.3 percent, while price inflation went up by 5.5 percent. That is the opposite pattern from most of the rest of the country, where spending went up faster than inflation.

Economists say that when inflation goes up faster than spending, it indicates that consumers find it difficult to keep up with rising prices.

"Expenditures went up less than inflation because New Yorkers allocated a large percentage of those expenditures on necessities," said Michael L. Dolfman, regional commissioner in the bureau. "Basically, New York is getting too expensive."

It is the first time that imbalance has occurred in the region in about a decade, reflecting both the national recession that hit New York harder than the rest of the nation, and New York's endless ability to outprice other cities for basic necessities.

Among the cities the department looked at, Los Angeles had the biggest increase in inflation - 5.8 percent - but spending in that city rose 10 percent, reflecting the classic economic theory that spending usually drives inflation. "What makes New York interesting is that it didn't happen that way there," Mr. Dolfman said.

In nearly every category, people in the New York region spent more of their household dollar on essentials than other Americans between 2000 and 2003. Rental prices in the region rose 8.1 percent, while nationally, they went up 4.1 percent.

Food prices rose 9.3 percent in the New York region; nationally they increased 2.7 percent.

What residents gave up were the extras. Spending on clothing fell by 12 percent, and there were also cutbacks in buying meat, poultry, eggs, and tobacco. In 2000, New Yorkers gave $1,353 per family to charity, but by 2003 that amount had fallen to $949.

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