Despite inflation, prices for some items are declining

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- While it feels like consumers are getting hit with higher prices from every angle, the latest Consumer Price Index shows some goods are cheaper than they were a year ago.

The price of some electronics went down the past year, most notably: televisions (-9.5%), video equipment (-4.3%), smartphones (-19.9%) and telephone hardware/calculators/consumer information items (-13.2%).

Connel Fullenkamp, an economics professor at Duke University, said this trend doesn't surprise him. He said quality adjustments completed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have an effect.

"They try to do a quality adjustment to say, 'Well if your phone or your TV or your computer is getting better, but the price is staying relatively the same, it's as if the price is falling.' And so those are some of the things that keep inflation down on the electronic side," he explained.

He also said consumers fighting back against rising cellphone costs is another factor influencing this declining trend.

"They're saying, you know, I'm not going to pay $1,000 plus for a phone that I'm only going to use for two years. So what they've done is they've basically started to compete in terms of refurbishing older phones so there's more competition from the US markets," Fullenkamp said. "And in response to that, I think a lot of mobile phone producers are cutting prices."

He predicted this pushback will continue into the future and keep electronic costs down.

Other items such as jewelry (-1.2%), books (-0.2%) and men's pants (-1.6%) reported a slight drop in price.

Admission to sporting events was also reportedly down 10.8% this year compared to last year.

Locally, Mike Birling, the vice president of the Durham Bulls said they haven't lowered prices.

"We haven't decreased," Birling said. "Coming out of 2020, not having a season and 2021, having half a season, it's not something we could decrease but we were very cognizant of trying not to go up too much."

Tickets for the minor league team remain around $10. Birling said the ballpark is getting hit with higher food prices but it has managed to not increase the cost for consumers.

"You can either go to the go to the beach where you have to pay a lot of gas and rentals are sky-high or you can stay in town and come out to an inexpensive place with your family and our market is families and we're going to try to remain as cost-conscious as we can," he said.

While prices for other items stay high, Birling said the Durham Bulls haven't seen a decrease in ticket sales as a result of people cutting back on social outings.

Food prices at elementary and secondary schools have also seen a significant decrease of around 43% since last year.

"A lot of local school districts actually offered free lunches for everybody just to try to get kids to come back to school and so part of that what we're seeing there is a pandemic response, and I think, you know, a lot of the story that we're seeing with some of these prices is still heavily influenced by the pandemic. And while others you know, like we were talking about with, with the electronics aren't as much," Fullenkamp explained.

Unfortunately, many of the items with lower prices aren't essential goods consumers need.

"Oh my gosh! You know, gas, airfares, I mean it's just ridiculous what's happening with the economy," said Raleigh resident Peter Boykin.

The latest data shows overall items are an average of 8.6% more expensive than last year.

Some of the highest price spikes are for things consumers regularly pay for, including meat/eggs (14.2%), gas (48.7%), and energy (16.2%).

Boykin and his wife, Sheila, said these prices have caused them to cut back in other areas.

"We don't do a lot of social activities anymore. I haven't been to the movies in two years, and haven't been to see my family in almost a year and a half," Sheila Boykin said.

Hotels (22.2%) and airfare (37.8%) also continue to see large upticks in price.

"We got to take care of your bills first. But yeah. If you are paying your bills I mean, it just seems like it's just getting more expensive," Peter Boykin echoed.

Fullenkamp said the next few months will be critical to determine which direction prices for certain goods go.

"Number one is the summer...the peak travel time and number two, it's because we're really starting to get a feel for whether the energy market disturbances are going to be short-term or long-term," he said. "You know, with the geopolitical disturbances in Ukraine and whatnot, we've been treating that kind of as a temporary disturbance and we're really starting to think about that being a more longer-term phenomenon which may continue to push prices up."
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