Chipotle customers are reporting ingredient shortages as the chain says it is facing high beef and shipping costs

Chipotle
  • Customers say Chipotle locations are out of key ingredients like rice and steak.
  • Chipotle says it is facing high beef and freight costs, but there is no system-wide shortage.
  • Taco Bell, Starbucks, and other chains are also dealing with shortages.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Some Chipotle locations are running out of key ingredients, according to customers posting online.

While there is no official messaging from Chipotle, customers say that they’ve visited locations that were out of vegetables, guacamole, steak, rice, and even tortillas.

“We aren’t experiencing any supply issues throughout the network, however, occasionally there are spot outages at individual restaurants,” a spokesperson told Insider.

“We are challenged by several industry-wide issues, most notably beef and freight costs, as well as staffing shortages at our suppliers.”

Chipotle locations dealt with shortages earlier in July during a free entree deal. Five Chipotle employees from four states told Insider about running out of ingredients including lettuce, sour cream, cilantro, brown rice, steak, vegetables, corn, and guacamole.

In June, Reuters reported on a New Jersey Chipotle that was out of barbacoa and carnitas during a weekday lunch rush. A nearby location had both ingredients, and Chipotle told Reuters that these were not a reflection of overall supply chain problems.

Read more: How much should you be paid? Browse more than 250,000 salaries from 250 of the country’s largest firms

The entire restaurant industry is facing supply chain issues, causing shortages and impacting customers. Taco Bell is telling customers that it doesn’t have several ingredients, and posts on social media called out shortages of staple ingredients including chicken, beef, and several different types of taco shells. The chain told Insider shortages were due to “national transportation delays,” that are impacting the entire industry.

In June, Starbucks shared an internal memo that the chain was putting 25 items on temporary hold due to supply chain issues. Some stores have displayed signs that say “we are currently experiencing temporary outages of some of our food and beverage items.” These signs were officially distributed from Starbucks corporate to individual stores, a spokesperson previously confirmed to Insider.

Shortages and price hikes are affecting the entire retail sector. Bikes, cars, meat, cheese, and even ketchup are all becoming more expensive, in part thanks to disruptions to the global supply chain from COVID-19, plus a shipping container shortage and port congestion. These factors created what experts called a “perfect storm” in global transportation.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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What to say when someone tells you ‘people don’t want to work right now’

A sign reads "We all quit" at a Burger King in Nebraska
  • As stories about labor shortages continue to pop up, it might seem like no one’s working.
  • The truth, of course, is far more complicated – just like the strange economy right now.
  • Importantly, the pandemic is still ongoing, and workers have a lot more options.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It’s a common refrain right now: No one wants to work. It’s a twist in the story of a not-quite-post-pandemic economy that left millions of people unemployed, as understaffed businesses struggle to hire and workers quit en-masse.

But, as always, the economy is complex, and so are the myriad of people who keep it running. A simple phrase doesn’t capture all of the complexities of why people may or may not be working. If you want to inject some nuance into your next conversation about the labor shortage, here’s what to know.

The pandemic is still going on

If the Delta variant has taught us anything, it’s that COVID is still spreading – and it’s still impacting the economy.

For instance, childcare – or lack thereof – has emerged as one potential driver keeping parents out of the workforce. With schools and daycares shuttered, some parents left their jobs to provide care. Others may have lost their roles, and delayed searching for new ones while their kids were at home. Either way, they may not have returned to the workforce yet.

Sociologist Jessica Calarco tweeted recently about the challenges facing parents as children remain unvaccinated and variants spread, noting that classrooms and daycares may have to temporarily shutter as cases come up.

“Given that kids aren’t going to be eligible for vaccines any time soon, and with Delta spreading rapidly, we should expect a whole lot more of this to come. I won’t be surprised if we end up with a whole bunch more 2-week gaps (or longer) in childcare this fall,” she wrote.

COVID fears have also kept some older workers out of the workforce. They were disproportionately impacted by job losses early in the pandemic, and some have called it quits and retired altogether.

Fed Gov. Lael Brainard said that labor shortages should fade by fall as schools reopen and fears abate, along with federal unemployment benefits.

Workers are taking advantage of more options

A huge amount of workers are quitting their jobs, which seems counterintuitive. In May, 3.6 million workers quit their jobs – but it may be because they are taking advantage of new opportunities.

Wages in industries that are having difficulty staffing up – like leisure and hospitality – are on the rise, but they’re still relatively low compared to other fields. Dr. William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University and chief economist at the AFL-CIO, previously told Insider that “workers who are employed are finding ways to get jobs in the sectors that are expanding and hiring.” Those sectors might offer higher wages, or at least more consistency than their prior roles.

It’s what Insider’s Aki Ito calls The Great Reshuffle: An unprecedented labor market, coupled with a rethinking of what workers want out of both work and life, has led many to exit their positions or seek out new ones. The market out there for workers is competitive, and many are finding higher salaries or better positions as they depart their old roles.

And yes, some workers may not be returning because they’re benefiting from enhanced unemployment benefits. As Insider previously reported, the consistent pay from unemployment – as well as the fact that it’s higher than what some workers made before – has caused some to rethink work.

“I just think that UI has just at least fixed everyone’s brain enough to see how f—ed up the wages are,” Matt Mies, an unemployed 28-year-old, previously told Insider.

But, as always, the picture is still nuanced. Many workers will find themselves cut off completely – including those who have been frantically searching for work.

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Boat sales are up, and owners say they’re getting harder to rent and repair

Person dancing on charter yacht
Yacht sales are up.

  • Boat prices are up 10% this year as demand increases.
  • Demand shot up during the pandemic as boats were viewed as a safe way to spend time outside.
  • The same shipping industry woes are to blame for shortages on other goods like lumber and furniture.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Boats are becoming more expensive and harder to find across the US, from small vessels to large yachts.

Boat prices are up, and customers are left waiting months longer than anticipated for their purchases. In Michigan, which is a hub for boaters due to the surrounding Great Lakes, one dealership is displaying signs warning would-be customers to “Buy now before they are gone,” WXYZ Detroit reported.

The state’s largest pontoon dealer has only one new pontoon for sale, and the sales manager spoke of “inventory shortages” to WXYZ. The dealership is also promoting trade-ins and “cash for boats,” similar to the run on used cars going on that has increased prices at the fastest ever rates. Boat prices have risen about 10% over the last year, the sales manager said.

For customers looking to buy new, wait times start at three to even six months, or longer for specialty or unusual orders.

Even the rich aren’t immune to shortages as yachts in particular become harder to find. “People just aren’t putting their boats up for sale,” Charles Corbbishley of RCR Yachts told Rochester First. He says buyers for new boats are on wait lists that go through 2023.

Like many shortages going on right now, a few causes converged to make boat buying difficult. Boating saw a rise in demand at the beginning of the pandemic that has continued since, The New York Times reported. In 2020, people increasingly spent their money socially distant activities that felt safe, like furniture upgrades and even new homes. Boats are similarly a way for people to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with family without interacting too closely with strangers.

Along with new demand, boaters faced all the same supply chain disruptions that shocked the rest of the global market. As Rachel Premack explained for Insider, some factories shut down in the early days of the pandemic, slowing production of nearly everything. Then came a shipping container shortage, making logistics even more complicated. Port congestion and Texas storms earlier this year only made things worse.

Getting a boat is hard, and keeping it in good shape isn’t any easier. Parts for maintenance and repairs are impacted by the same shortages as boats themselves.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Starbucks memo lists 25 items that could disappear from some stores as the chain struggles to fix supply chain issues

Starbucks cup barista
  • Starbucks memo says it will stop ordering 25 menu items and ingredients due to supply issues.
  • Starbucks says it is experiencing temporary shortages and is apologizing to customers.
  • Supply chain disruptions have led to shortages and long waits across retail.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Many Starbucks stores are facing shortages of vital products, and the issues could be getting worse.

Starbucks is putting orders for at least 25 items on “temporary hold” as of June 4 due to supply chain issues, according to an internal company update viewed by Insider.

“Starbucks will put a temporary hold on production until supply chain issues are resolved,” the posting says. The list, confirmed by three Starbucks employees in Arizona, Georgia, and Oregon, includes popular items like hazelnut syrup, toffee nut syrup, chai tea bags, green iced tea, and other products.

Starbucks declined to comment on the memo. The company has previously said ongoing product shortages are localized and not nationwide.

No shortage of issues

Customers have been complaining online for weeks about shortages of their favorite items, from oat milk to drink syrups and baked goods.

Starbucks workers say the lengthy shortages are making their jobs harder.

“There is a company-wide shortage of so many things,” a shift supervisor in Pennsylvania whose identity was confirmed by Insider said, noting one big shortage at their store was caramel drizzle.

Read more: Food, beverage, and personal care companies all boomed during the pandemic. The 10 startups pulling in the most investor cash include an eco-friendly cleaning company with unicorn status and a farming startup backed by Jeff Bezos.

“We are constantly running out of food,” and customers sometimes get angry with employees over these shortages, the employee said. “It is out of our control. We try to tell them the company cannot keep up with demand … They end up getting mad and most of the time they just drive away. We try to explain there are shortages but they do not care.”

Starbucks confirmed that stores are dealing with shortages of different products, and said the specifics vary by location. The company said there’s no single item that is out across the board at all stores.

“We are experiencing temporary supply shortages of some of our products. Specific items will vary by market and store, and some stores will experience outages of various items at the same time. We apologize for the inconvenience, and are working quickly and closely with our supply chain vendors to restock items as soon as possible,” a spokesperson told Insider in a phone call.

Starbucks shortage sign

Some stores have displayed signs that say “we are currently experiencing temporary outages of some of our food and beverage items.” These signs were officially distributed from Starbucks corporate to individual stores, the spokesperson confirmed. The Pennsylvania employee also shared an update about a potential straw shortage coming soon.

A global problem

The shortages have been an ongoing problem for Starbucks this year. In April, Insider reported a widespread oat milk shortage impacting Starbucks just a month after it was introduced at the chain. Workers at locations across the US told Insider about other shortages in April, including cups, flavored syrups, and baked goods.

Shortages and price hikes are affecting the entire retail sector. Bikes, cars, meat, cheese, and even ketchup are all becoming more expensive, in part thanks to disruptions to the global supply chain from COVID-19, plus a shipping container shortage and port congestion. These factors created what experts called a “perfect storm” in global transportation.

Starbucks says it cannot predict when products will be restocked, although everything on menus is slated to be refilled with no permanent cancellations.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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One shocking chart shows used-car prices jumping another record amount in May, highlighting the strange gaps in the economy’s recovery

Used car sale dealership
Sale signs lie on vehicles at a General Motors Chevrolet dealership July 6, 2005 in Ferndale, Michigan.

  • Used-car prices likely jumped yet again in May, UBS says, following a 68-year record in April.
  • Used cars have been one of the primary drivers of increased consumer inflation.
  • It’s one strange part of the puzzle that is America’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you’re in the market for a used car, be prepared for some sticker shock. Prices are projected to have skyrocketed again in May, and that boom is probably going to be a primary driver of increased inflation.

A note by a group of UBS researchers, led by Alan Detmeister, forecast a 10.8% price increase. That’s even higher than April’s record-breaking surge of 10%.

used car prices jump
Chart via UBS.

Those pre-owned cars are adding significant mileage to inflation in the US. UBS projects that core Consumer Price Index (CPI) will have another “massive” rise in May; simply put, that means things got even more expensive. That follows a 13-year high in April. In both April and May, the increase is “heavily driven” by used car prices, according to UBS.

Used cars are just one of a myriad of shortages throughout the US economy, part of the country’s strange rollercoaster of a recovery. A global computer-chip shortage has wreaked havoc on the automotive industry, potentially costing it up to $110 billion just this year, Insider’s Dominick Reuter reported. Those chips are used for everything from car engines to Bluetooth capabilities. That’s slowed production of new cars – right when Americans are itching to buy them, as Insider’s Katie Canales reported.

“With pressures on the used car market, along with returning demand for travel, we expect further increases in these categories in the coming months,” the UBS researchers write. They also expect “solid” price increases for new cars and apparel.

Another shortage could be holding up economic recovery

Last week brought the May jobs report, which tracked payroll gains for the month. It showed signs of labor-market acceleration, as Insider’s Ben Winck reported, with the unemployment rate dropping. However, the number of payrolls added came in below expectations.

A separate UBS note from researchers led by Andrew Dubinsky said jobs are rebounding slower than expected because of shortages – “temporary labor supply bottlenecks implied by strong wage gains are slowing growth.” For instance, the youngest workers, who are 16 to 24, saw declines, which UBS attributes to them potentially returning for in-person schooling.

So something else is getting more expensive: The amount that workers get paid. Employers are forking over more money to try and get workers to join their workforce.

As the UBS researchers write, “Annualized leisure wage growth of around 20% in the past three months suggest the recovery is being held back by labor supply.” That wage growth signals that labor-market-supply issues will be temporary, UBS said.

But it’s not just a matter of wages keeping people out of the workforce. Some unemployed workers are rethinking work and what they want out of it, while others struggle with a labor mismatch – the jobs that are open don’t necessarily fit with their skills, or previous experience. Despite all of that, it doesn’t appear that increased unemployment benefits kept workers from returning in May. In 25 GOP-led states, governors have prematurely announced an end to federal benefits to get workers back, but, as Insider’s Ayelet Sheffey reported, they returned regardless.

And, of course, there’s still an ongoing pandemic. UBS, which is “optimistic” about labor force participation in the coming months, notes COVID fears may subside. That’s one factor that may have been keeping older workers from returning.

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Your Memorial Day is about to get a lot more expensive. From hot dogs to fuel, here are some of the products in short supply.

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  • As the vaccination rate picks up, demand is outpacing the supplies of many key goods.
  • Americans will face several prices hikes and shortages this Memorial Day.
  • Insider rounded up all the products that may be difficult to find over the holiday weekend.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Everywhere you look, there seems to be a new shortage popping up in America’s currently very strange economy. From chicken to gas, it’s getting harder to come by items as supply-chain issues, outsized demand, and the climate crisis all converge to choke accessibility.

But as Americans learn to live in a new normal yet again – this time with vaccines, fewer masks, and slightly eased pandemic-era restrictions – demand for things like travel and hotels is on the rise. With a long weekend coming up, Americans are ready to get back into the world. But the economy may not be ready for them: Here are the shortages that could plague Memorial Day weekend.

Vacation homes

Vacation home

Vacation-home rentals in the US are at an all-time high this year.

More people are looking to travel as the vaccination rate increases. In the US, 65% of people plan to travel more this year than before the pandemic started and 82% of families have already made vacation plans, according to online rental hub Vrbo.

If you haven’t rented out a vacation home yet, it might be too late to find one this year: 85% of vacation rentals in Cape Cod, the Outer Banks, and along the Jersey shore, are booked through August, Vrbo said.

Prices for vacation homes are skyrocketing, CNBC reported last month. Rentals in premium locations are going for record sums. One house in the Hamptons rented for $2 million this summer.

 

Hotels and motels

hotel reception

It’s not just vacation and rental homes seeing a surge: Hotels and motels saw their costs increase by 8.8% in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

CNBC reports that nightly prices are on the rise, and are likely only to increase as summer travel goes into full swing. In fact, prices in coveted areas, like beaches, have soared above pre-pandemic levels.

While some industries say they’re struggling to find workers and staff up, the leisure and hospitality sector actually saw notable gains in April’s jobs report. While the report came in far below expectations — with just 266,000 jobs added, instead of the expected 1 million — leisure and hospitality emerged the strongest.

The industry added 331,000 payrolls. While that’s a promising sign of recovery, some experts say even those additions aren’t coming fast enough.

 

 

Fuel

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Americans looking to hit the road for Memorial Day weekend will face soaring gas prices.

The price of fuel surged to a seven-year high on Wednesday. Fallout from a cyberattack on the nation’s largest fuel pipeline devastated the supply chain, pushing the average price in the US over $3 per gallon. The 5,500-mile oil pipeline reopened on Thursday, but Reuters reported it could take weeks for fuel supply to return to normal, after consumers rushed to stock up on gasoline over the week.

Prior to the cyberattack last weekend, prices were not expected to see another significant spike until after Memorial Day, when travel is expected to push demand even higher at the end of the month.

But, even before the pipeline was shut down, gas prices were skyrocketing as demand outstrips dwindling fuel supplies. In April, fuel prices leaped 9% in their largest one-month increase in nine years as shipping container shortages, port delays, and OPEC production cuts made the commodity increasingly valuable.

A new or used car

Car Dealership
New Chevys for sale fill the lot at Raymond Chevrolet in Antioch, Illinois, July 17, 2014.

If you wanted to buy a car for that summer road trip you’ve been planning since March 2020, you may find yourself up against some fierce competition — and ever-increasing prices.

New cars are in short supply due to an ongoing shortage of the computer chips that power everything from the Bluetooth in cars to iPads, and their scarcity has been felt all over the economy. Some car manufacturers had to halt production at the start of the year, leading to more elusive models and higher prices.

That’s trickled down into the used-car market. In April, used car prices jumped by 10%. Insider’s Ben Winck reported that that was the largest one-month increase since 1953, when data first started to get collected. In fact, that price jump accounted for around a third of April’s big 0.8% jump in inflation from the previous month.

Experts attribute the shortage to demand for vehicles, especially as new cars are harder to come by, and rental car services attempting to rebuild fleets; many sold off some of their cars at the onset of the pandemic. 

Rental cars are also in high demand. As Americans clamor to travel again, there’s a “perfect storm” brewing, Insider’s Brittany Chang reports.

In hot tourist destinations, prices are surging; Jonathan Weinberg, the founder and CEO of AutoSlash, told Chang that some rental cars in Hawaii are going for over $500 a day — a massive increase from the usual $50. And rental car companies are expecting strong demand over the summer for their reduced fleets, all while coming up against the computer chip shortage.

But vacation goers might still find it expensive and difficult to get around if they’re counting on rideshare drivers. Uber and Lyft have been trying to lure drivers back to work with new incentives, but there’s still a persistent driver shortage. That’s due to a variety of factors, as drivers worry about safety and find stability in enhanced stimulus benefits.

Airfare

woman flight airplane mask
A woman disembarks from an airplane.

If you’re planning on jetsetting over Memorial Day weekend, you may find the shockingly low flight prices of the pandemic have vanished.

In April, airline fares increased by 10.2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

That’s not to say there aren’t deals, as airlines unleashed a week of wild international flight deals in April; the risk with those, as Insider’s Tom Pallini reported, is that it’s unclear if those countries will be open to American visitors.

But, as the Washington Post reports, it could be a different story for domestic flights, especially over the summer. Rising demand and fares could be concentrated over the summer, as Americans race to take advantage of the weather and newly loosened pandemic restrictions.

Adit Damodaran, an economist at travel booking app Hopper, told Insider’s Jamie Ditaranto that demand is concentrated around late May and early June — and that prices may rise by 15%.

Bacon and hot dogs

hot dogs on grill

Memorial Day barbeques will be impacted by the supply snags.

Bacon and hot dogs may be difficult to find in grocery stores, due to a global pig shortage. The hog industry has faced several setbacks this past year. High instances of swine decimated hog populations this past winter and COVID-19 outbreaks in at least 167 meat-processing plants forcing almost 40 plants to close as of June 2020.

Demand will likely outstrip supply as people stock up on the meat for cookouts on Memorial Day weekend.

 

Fireworks

Fireworks
Illegal fireworks illuminate the sky over the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 19, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

It will be more expensive to celebrate the holiday with fireworks this year.

Superior Fireworks announced they were increasing their prices about 15% this year — the highest the company has ever had to hike prices in its 20-year history.

The company is one of many fireworks producers that have been forced to raise prices in order to compensate for higher shipping and production costs.

Chlorine

Lodge at Kukuiula
The property’s infinity pool.

Vacationers looking to relax in the pool during the holiday weekend may face difficulty finding clean pools.

Last month CNBC reported the US is facing the worst chlorine shortage in history. Prices for the chemical used to clean pools has nearly doubled this past year and is only expected to continue to rise with warm weather.

Pool owners can avoid the shortage by using saltwater pools instead, according to Insider’s Annabelle Williams.

Imported goods like wine and cheese

food membership
wine with cheese

Vacationers will pay top dollar for imported food.

Good from overseas, including seafood, cheese, and wine are facing months of shipping delays. Some grocery stores, including Costco have already reported shortage of imported food, while other companies have already begun to hike prices in response.

Last month, Coca-Cola and General Mills announced they were raising their prices.

Restaurant service

los angeles outdoor dining
A waitress takes customers’ orders in the outdoor seating area of a restaurant on January 28, 2021 in Los Angeles.

People looking to eat out over the holiday weekend may find difficulty getting service at local restaurants.

Major labor shortages have rocked the restaurant industry. After laying off millions of workers at the onset of the pandemic, many restaurants are struggling to bring workers back as they reopen.

Restaurant chains have rolled out new incentives to lure employees back, according to Insider’s Kate Taylor. But, many frontline workers are hesitant to return to work over concerns regarding COVID-19 safety, as well as childcare, Insider’s Ayelet Sheffey reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Can’t find chicken wings, diapers, or a new car? Here’s a list of all the shortages hitting the reopening economy.

GettyImages 1212992700
Empty shelves and shoppers at a Target store in Dublin, California, on March 15, 2020.

  • As the US economy increasingly reopens, it is seeing shortages of all sorts of items.
  • If you’ve tried to buy (or rent) a car or eat some chicken wings, you’ve probably noticed.
  • Insider rounded up some of the major supply shortages and why they’re lagging.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Computer chips

computer chip biden
President Joe Biden holds a semiconductor chip at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 24, 2021.

An ongoing computer-chip shortage has affected cars, iPads, and dog-washing technology alike. Chipmakers like Intel had already seen production issues pre-pandemic, but as with many industries, COVID-19 brought a variety of new supply-chain issues. The chip shortage is a problem for consumers wanting basically anything with a computerized component, which is much of the economy. Take cars as an example.

The semiconductor shortage has hit automakers the hardest. In January, the consulting firm Alix Partners estimated the automotive industry would lose $61 billion in revenue from the shortage this year. As Insider’s Katie Canales reported, demand for chips has gone up as consumers scrambled to buy cars and other technologies that use them.

But as more cars went into production, chip competition went up. Since then, many carmakers have been forced to shut down plants and prioritize which models they produce, while car prices at dealerships have continued to go up.

Last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the semiconductor shortage has caused “insane difficulties” for the electric carmaker. Even Apple — a company that many thought would be able to dodge the shortage after it started making its own high-powered computer chips last year — said it will delay production on its iMac and iPad.

 

Used cars and rental cars

car buying

Buyers are still looking for vehicles, creating a competitive used-car market. As USA Today reported, used-car prices are on the rise as the aforementioned chip shortages affect new-car production, and buyers have turned to older ones instead, while Axios reported the average price of a used car has hit $17,609.

A UBS note estimated that in April, used cars saw their largest monthly price increase in 68 years of tracking, with prices rising between 8.2% and 9.3%.

If you’re looking to rent, you might also be out of luck: Insider’s Brittany Chang reported on the “perfect storm” hitting rental cars right now, with prices surging and demand increasing. Americans are itching to go on vacation this summer, as more people are vaccinated and some restrictions loosen. That’s leading to far more demand — but rental-car companies had sold off parts of their fleets early into the pandemic, leaving fewer cars to go around. 

It’s not all bad news for used-car lovers, though: As USA Today reports, the trade-in market is hot, too, meaning your old car could be worth more right now.

Gas

gas station
A man fills up a car at a filling station.

Industry experts say drivers will face fuel shortages this summer.

Demand for fuel and interest in travel has risen as vaccination rates have increased. Lower gasoline-production rates have also made the commodity more valuable, as OPEC has been slow to curb production cuts. 

Gas prices have skyrocketed in recent months, jumping 22.5% in March from the previous year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. Much of the surge in gas prices started with the extreme Texas freeze, which halted a fifth of the country’s oil-refining capacity in its tracks for weeks at a time.

 

Plastics and palm oil

plastics manufacturing

The devastating winter storms in Texas also left their mark on the plastics industry. As Insider’s Natasha Dailey reported, the state is a key plastics exporter — and the storms made many plants, which are difficult to reactivate, press pause.

According to the Financial Times, rising plastic prices have led to an increase in packaging costs. Citing data from Mintec, the Financial Times reported that those costs have increased by nearly 40% from the start of 2020, marking “historic highs.”

Palm oil, which is in a majority of those packaged products, also saw its prices climb, according to the Financial Times. That’s due to yet another labor shortage; the industry had already been contending with finding more sustainable production methods.

Trucking

truck driver
A contract port truck driver, Giraldo has seen work dry up as imports slow during the coronavirus outbreak. He gets fewer than four hauls a week, compared with at least 12 in normal times.

The Wall Street Journal reported that increased shipping demand has combined with a lack of drivers and trucks to result in climbing shipping costs. 

In September, Insider’s Rachel Premack reported that pay for truck drivers was on the rise, coming in at “record-smashing levels.” But the pay hike — and increased demand — comes after an exodus of drivers in 2019; Premack reported at the time on what some called a “trucking bloodbath,” as trucking companies saw profits fall, with some even going bankrupt.

Now demand is surging, according to The Journal, and if everything continues as is, that gap could deepen.

Homes and vacation houses

House for sale US
A house’s real estate for sale sign shows the home as being “Under Contract” in Washington, DC, November 19, 2020.

The US was facing a shortage of 3.8 million homes as of April, according to Freddie Mac. Home builders have been struggling to keep up with demand as remote work fuels interest in spacious housing, with house prices rising at their fastest pace in 15 years, The Wall Street Journal reported. Lumber prices are also driving the cost of new homes even higher.

In the past year alone, the median cost of a home in the US shot up 15% from $300,000 in 2019 to $340,000 by the end of 2020, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. That measure does not even begin to account for hot housing markets like Austin, Texas, where the average home went for more than $800,000 in April.

Even vacation-home rentals are at an all-time high. A house in the Hamptons rented for $2 million this summer, and 85% of vacation rentals in popular destinations like Cape Cod, the Outer Banks, and the Jersey Shore are booked through August, according to the rental site VRBO.

Lumber

Lumber

If you’re wondering why the houses around you are getting more expensive, look to their component parts. No, seriously: Lumber prices have soared, and, as Insider’s Ayelet Sheffey and Libertina Brandt reported, builders are even increasing house prices in an attempt to offset demand.

It’s due to another pandemic disruption, as lumber mills were forced to temporarily close for safety concerns. When they reopened, they couldn’t keep up with a scorching-hot housing market, goosed by a work-from-home economy, record low mortgage rates, and the need for personal space during the pandemic.

According to an April analysis from the National Association of Home Builders, soaring lumber prices added $36,000 to the cost of a new home. Lumber prices “remain stubbornly high,” according to the report, due to mills shutting down, unexpected demand from big-box retail and DIY-ers, and tariffs imposed on Canadian lumber.

Household products like toilet paper and tampons

Stockpiling toilet paper

Many household goods including toilet paper, diapers, and tampons are also facing supply problems.

One of the biggest producers of the pulp used to create toilet paper told Bloomberg that port delays and high shipping costs are causing companies to push delivery dates back months. 

Shortages and shipping delays are causing many companies to hike prices. Last month, Proctor & Gamble said it would raise prices for baby-care and feminine-care products, as well as adult diapers to combat shortages and shipping costs. The same week, Kimberly Clark hiked the price of its Huggies diapers and Scott toilet paper. 

Furniture

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La-Z-Boy store

The work-from-home lifestyle helped the furniture industry boom but to such an extent that customers are seeing delivery dates that are months out.

In February, La-Z-Boy executives said customers could expect delivery dates that are five to nine months out from their order dates. Other furniture companies like Kasala, a Seattle-based chain, said they don’t expect to get furniture parts until at least December.

Many US furniture stores use parts from China. The global shipping-container shortage, as well as delays at key ports in Southern California have not only made the goods more expensive, but have also pushed back delivery dates by several months.

The furniture shortage has been exacerbated by a spike in homeownership, as the number of available and unsold homes sits at record lows. In other words, a lot of new homeowners are waiting a long time for their new living-room sets.

Chicken

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If you’ve been having trouble finding chicken wings, you’re not alone: They’re hard to come by as supply tightens. Insider’s Avery Hartmans reported that chicken-wing supply is dwindling while prices rise. It’s due in part to increased demand and shortages caused by devastating winter storms in Texas.

The Washington Post reported that shortages go beyond just wings, with all chicken harder to get ahold of. One phenomenon The Post notes: Fried chicken sandwiches, which have gained viral popularity in the past few years. McDonald’s has even launched its own. Insider’s Mary Meisenzahl reported that the KFC Nashville hot chicken has been so popular on TikTok that the chain is running out of the hot sauce for it.

Bacon and hot dogs

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Bacon and hot dogs will likely be in short supply this summer.

The pig shortage dates back to the onset of COVID-19 and outbreaks in at least 167 meat-processing plants forcing almost 40 plants to close as of June 2020. As vaccination rates pick up and people prepare for summer vacations and cookouts, analysts told Insider’s Natasha Dailey demand will outstrip supply.

With pork companies still struggling to overcome lower production rates in 2020, the matter only intensified when high instances of disease hit the hog population this past winter.

 

Imported foods like cheese, coffee, and olive oil

coffee pot

Imported goods including coffee, cheese, seafood, and olive oil are facing months of shipping delays.

Dozens of mega-containers ships are waiting to dock off the coast of Los Angeles. The site accounts for about one-third of US imports, and the backlog is causing ships to wait weeks to dock and unload.

Some companies are already seeing the impact on their shelves. In March, Costco said its supplies of cheese, seafood, and olive oil were running low. 

General Mills said it has been forced to raise prices due to the delays increased shipping costs.  Coca-Cola also raised prices to combat the supply-chain crunch. Neither company specified which products would be affected.

Coffee has also been hit by delays, Bloomberg reported in March. Peet’s and JM Smucker, the brands behind Folgers and Dunkin’ coffee, have said they’re facing rising costs. Reuters reported that in February, port delays pushed coffee prices to their highest point in more than a year.

 

 

 

Chlorine

pool cleaning
Chlorine can kill germs, but alcohol is more effective.

This summer pool owners will see the worst chlorine shortage in US history, according to CNBC.

Supplies of the chemical have been strained since a fire at the chlorine manufacturer BioLab in Louisiana in September. The price for chlorine used in pools has nearly doubled this past year and is expected to rise even more to meet demand this summer.

Insider’s Annabelle Williams reported that pool owners could help avoid the shortage by resorting to saltwater pools.

Corn

corn maze

Corn is a key crop for many products, including fuel and different foods. As supply concerns loom, corn prices are popping off, according to Axios

There’s a few reasons that demand is so high: After an outbreak of swine fever in China, pig herds were “decimated,” according to Axios, leading to huge corn demand in China. That spike in demand is coupled with corn crops in Brazil and Argentina experiencing both bad weather and pandemic-related labor shortages.

Now corn prices are on a record-setting clip, rising by 16% in April alone. 

And, as Fortune reported, there could be a domestic supply issue too. Droughts and a rough winter are both concerning — and if American crops can’t fill in the gaps, prices could rise even more.

 

Labor

now hiring

Finally, a commodity unlike all the others is in surprisingly short supply: workers.

Major labor shortages are hitting businesses across America. As Insider’s Kate Taylor reported, chains like Dunkin’ and Starbucks are struggling to find workers — leading to reduced hours and hesitance on opening indoor dining back up.

There’s a few possible reasons that unemployed workers are opting not to return, according to Insider’s Ayelet Sheffey. They include workers making more on unemployment benefits than in their prior work as well as continued concerns over COVID-19 and the need to provide childcare at home.

As Insider previously reported, female tipped workers experienced lower tips and increased harassment during the pandemic.  

One potential solution for ending this shortage, according to Taylor? Paying workers more.

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Used-car prices just saw their biggest monthly price increase in at least 68 years, UBS estimates

Coronavirus Car Dealership
  • Used cars are the latest product seeing a record price increase from a supply shortage.
  • Researchers at UBS found that used-car prices may have shot up by 8.2% to 9.3% in April.
  • UBS estimates that’s the largest monthly price increase in 68 years of tracking used cars.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The latest commodity seeing a price squeeze amidst shortages and high demand is used cars.

A note from UBS researchers led by Alan Detmeister found that not only did used-car prices climb in April, but the monthly price increase could be the largest in 68 years of tracking. It looks like prices may have risen by 8.2% to 9.3%.

Used cars have been in high demand due to a few of the factors driving the shortages all over the American economy. The economy is reopening, people are ready to spend money (perhaps from new stimulus checks), and they want cars – especially as more suburban areas boom with wealthy transplants. But new cars are being hit by a computer chip shortage that’s hitting the automotive industry hard.

As Insider’s Grace Kay reported, semiconductor shortages could cost automakers billions, and has already led to lower production rates for new cars. Even Elon Musk has said that Tesla’s suffered from supply chain and semiconductor woes. Cue a used-car boom, with the market heating up and trade-ins fetching higher prices.

chart showing used car prices skyrocketing
Chart via UBS Evidence Lab.

According to UBS, prices on used cars may only climb in the coming months, due to a lag in wholesale to retail pricing. New car prices are also likely to pick up, increasing by 1%.

Why there are so many shortages, and which ones may pick up next

It may seem that everywhere you look, a new product is in a shortage. Chicken, diapers, corn, gas, furniture: The list of shortages goes on, and will likely only grow amid economic reopening. That’s due to some of the same factors impacting used and new cars. Supply-chain issues have persisted throughout the pandemic, and factories shuttered for safety reasons need to crank back to life as demand steepens.

Read more: The processor shortage that made the PlayStation 5 and some cars harder to find was almost over – until a ship got stuck in the Suez Canal. Here’s why it’s likely to get even worse.

The climate crisis also has a role, with several domestic products in the US – such as plastic and gas – impacted by factors including the devastating winter storms in Texas. Droughts are impacting the worldwide corn supply amidst high demand; Insider’s Will Daniel reports that corn prices have jumped 142% in the past year.

UBS projects 12-month headline Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rising to 4.3% from 2.6%, “an enormous surge over just the past few months.” Economists’ median estimate for April CPI is 3.6%, per Bloomberg.

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Chart via UBS Evidence Lab.

UBS projects hotels and airfares will be next to see substantial price increases. Axios reported – in an article aptly titled “Our crazy, booked-up summer” – that summer travel in the US is about to boom, with a particular emphasis on domestic travel.

A recent report from the US Travel Association found 72% of Americans are planning a summer vacation in 2021; that’s compared to 37% last year. That probably won’t help the already intense rental car shortage.

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Bubble tea drinkers could be out of luck as a shortage of boba and other products may make the sweet drink hard to find

bubble tea
Bubble tea. bebe14/Shutterstock

  • Bubble tea supplies are running low amid a shortage caused by backed-up US ports.
  • Tapioca pearls, popping bobas, and flavored powders and syrups are stuck in transit.
  • The products are the latest among many that have faced a shortage during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Your favorite bubble tea shop may not be serving its signature drink for a while as shipping delays are keeping some retailers from getting the supplies to make the sweet beverage.

The shortage started about a month ago, according to Oliver Yoon, the vice president of sales and global marketing for Boba Direct, a Chicago-based nationwide supplier of bubble tea products.

US ports on the East and West Coasts have been overwhelmed for months as consumer spending has increased along with a bevy of logistical issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Boats, carrying tens of thousands of shipping containers, are waiting outside ports.

“It’s a perfect storm really,” Yoon said.

Bubble tea, which has exploded in popularity in recent years, is a Taiwanese milk tea drink with a variety of flavors that features chewy pearls of tapioca. Supply has been tightened for the last month, Yoon said, and it’s not likely to let up until the end of April at the earliest.

Bubble tea products like tapioca pearls, popping bobas, flavored powders and syrups, and disposables, are all stuck in a “huge bottleneck,” said Yoon.

But it’s not just bubble tea. “It’s pretty much any kind of consumer product,” Yoon said.

Starbucks franchises, for example, aren’t able to fulfill customer orders of the new oat milk drink offerings and baristas are even reporting shortages of cups and syrups. Fitness gear, roller skates, and furniture, among other products also have been hampered.

Read more: Apple’s reportedly delaying its next Macs and iPads thanks to a global parts shortage, and it’s a bad sign for the whole tech industry

One bubble tea shop owner named Alex Ou told The San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported on the shortage, that some consumers won’t buy a drink if there’s no boba. “They’re literally here for the boba,” he told the publication.

But consumers just need to be patient, said Yoon. “This is temporary, not forever.”

For retailers selling bubble tea, they’re frustrated, too, said Yoon.

“I get it; they’re a small business, and they’re trying to survive. We’re all in the same situation – just trying to survive,” he said. “COVID really affected the situation with importing. No one anticipated what happened last year; it’s one of these domino effects later on in the future.”

Have you tried to order a food or drink item but were told it was sold out for the time being? Email the reporter of this article at ndailey@businessinsider.com.

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A looming shortage of bacon and hot dogs could leave big cookout plans up in smoke for July Fourth when most Americans are vaccinated

grill dogs
  • Hogs are in short supply ahead of this summer’s pent-up demand for products like bacon and hot dogs.
  • That means hog-meat prices might be higher, and consumers will see fewer discounts.
  • “The whole supply chain has really been squeezed,” said ArrowStream’s Isaac Olvera.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Summer barbecues may taste a little different this year.

Hogs have been in short supply since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago. Now analysts are predicting higher prices and a short supply of pork for foods like hot dogs and bacon as restaurants re-open and summer barbecues resume as vaccinations in the US pick up pace.

The problems are “after-effects of last-year’s disruption,” said Christine McCracken, Rabobank executive director for animal protein.

“This goes all the way back to the start of COVID,” said Isaac Olvera, food and agriculture economist at ArrowStream.

Most Americans will have been able to get the COVID-19 vaccine by July Fourth. But “many consumers still feel more comfortable with outside dining and gatherings, so I suspect grilling out is going to be a very popular activity this summer,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, principal and founder of 210analytics.

With that, McCracken said there’s likely pent-up demand for meat. “BBQs and family gatherings are going to be a nice way of reconnecting and will be a big driver of meat demand in the coming months,” she said.

But because of lower production last year and higher disease losses this past winter, the hog supply has taken a hit, she said, and that’s going to drive prices higher amid the increased demand.

“The whole supply chain has really been squeezed, and unfortunately it does not look like this is going to be something that improves between here and early summer,” Olvera said.

Read more: Experts say brick-and-mortar retailers could rebound post-pandemic – but only if they channel the e-commerce boom back to their physical outposts

The numer of market hogs, piglets, and future piglets, dropped 1.8%, 1.4% and 2.5%, respectively, from March 1 2020 to March 1, 2021, according to Olvera.

The decline means retailers are likely to “price-ration supply” of hog meat, he said, so consumers will see higher prices and fewer discounts to keep stores from running out of stock.

“Bargains on meat might be tough for consumers to find this summer,” McCracken said. “So my advice to consumers would be to stock up when you find a good deal.”

But consumers generally shift their preferences, and retailers change up their promotional strategies, accordingly, said Roerink.

“While prices may be a bit higher, consumers are typically very creative in making adjustments in other areas to host family and friends,” Roerink said.

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