The Margin: Google searches for ‘cost of living’ highest in a decade


What’s been on people’s minds in 2022? The economy, stupid. 

In fact, Google searches for “cost of living” and for financial assistance reached a 10-year high in 2022. That’s according to a report released by the Alphabet-owned GOOGL, -0.66% search engine on Wednesday, which came just hours before the Fed meeting where Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell was expected to raise interest rates once again to combat inflation.

Certainly, inflation hitting its highest point in 40 years, rising prices and fears of a recession have dominated the news cycle and dinner table conversations this year. Indeed, the latest Google Trends data found that “What does a recession mean for me?” was a breakout search in 2022 as Americans braced for things to get worse.

Google Trends

But while economists and policymakers may be divided on whether the U.S. is in a recession or not, the search queries that have spiked on Google this year suggest that many Americans are already suffering financial hardship. Lookups for “I need financial assistance immediately” hit a 10-year high this month.

Watch: How we got to the highest inflation in 40 years

Take food insecurity, for example. Food prices rose 10.6% last month compared with a year ago, according to government data released Tuesday — although the silver lining is that food costs were down slightly from 10.9% in October. And Google noted that over the past year, searches for “food bank distribution schedule” have more than doubled in the U.S. There was also a 20% increase in searches for “food bank and pantries” from 2021. 

And queries related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which issues electronic benefits to help feed more than 42 million Americans each year, reached a record high at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020. And SNAP-related searches have continued to surpass pre-pandemic search interest levels, Google said, with the most popular SNAP queries this year including, “How to apply for food stamps?” and “How to qualify for food stamps?” 

Read more: Food inflation is cooling, but double-digit percentage increases persist for these items

“Rising costs and disruption caused by the pandemic have left many Americans facing financial hardship,” Google’s director of search, Hema Budaraju, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday morning. “People are turning to the internet to find help and support to navigate the uncertainty.” 

At least November’s softer-than-expected consumer-price index suggests inflation is easing up a bit.

Budaraju noted that among the top financial assistance-related questions searched in the U.S. in 2022 were: “How to get financial assistance,” “financial assistance for medical bills” and “what is financial assistance for disability?” And who or what were they seeking financial assistance for? According to Google, the most searched “financial assistance for …” queries in 2022 included aid for cancer patients, medical bills, veterans, breast cancer patients and released prisoners. 

Google Trends

Americans also Googled how to apply for financial assistance, in general, as well as instructions for applying or qualifying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicaid and Medicare, specifically.

Related: Social Security recipients may get a short-lived break in 2023

Meanwhile, the most common questions about economic uncertainty in the U.S. in 2022 included: 

1. What is inflation?

2. What is a recession?

3. What happens during a recession?

4. Is the housing market going to crash?

5. Is a recession coming?

Read more: Financial markets are flashing a warning that a recession is imminent: here’s what it means for stocks

The good news is that there’s plenty of resources available to help steer people (and their money) through uncertain economic times — including MarketWatch. Worried about what the news means for your wallet? The Personal Finance Daily breaks things down each day. Listen to the Best New Ideas in Money podcast, or sign up for the daily Need To Know newsletter, which dishes intel on all the news moving markets before the day starts.

Google has also updated its search experience so that local government sites and resources are more accessible online. The blog post notes that “you can find at-a-glance information on eligibility criteria, how to apply, locally relevant contact information and easy access to login portals once you have enrolled” for services like SNAP and SSDI with a quick Google search. 

Read more at MarketWatch: 

5 things to watch when the Fed makes its interest-rate decision

Vanguard sees a recession in 2023 — and one ‘silver lining’ for investorsIs this a good — or bad — time for me to ask for a raise?

The job market is strong, but layoffs are on the rise

This article was originally published by Read the original article here.

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