White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has blamed the country’s supply chain crisis partly on the online shopping habits of Americans.
Psaki said that consumers increasing their online purchases amid the COVID-19 pandemic was part of the “root cause” of the supply bottleneck when asked to provide a “message to Americans who are still so worried about getting their Christmas gifts on time” during a press conference at the White House on Wednesday. She said the issue was “a top priority” for President Joe Biden.
“So many people across the country are purchasing more goods online,” Psaki said. “Maybe some of it is from habits that developed during the pandemic when people weren’t leaving their homes. Some of it is because we’ve seen an economic recovery that has been underway for the last nine months… That is leading to a massive increase in volume. That’s what’s happening at ports.”
“We are addressing and attacking the supply chain issues—even with the increased volume, which is the root cause here—at every front,” she added. “I think what people should know is this is a top priority. We’ve already seen progress. And we’re going to continue to stay at it.”
Psaki said that the Biden administration was focused on expediting the movement of goods by working with ports and railroads to make sure they are operating fully, as well as “making sure people get COVID vaccines” overseas and “working with truckers and labor unions to make sure we have more people driving trucks.”
Staffing shortages in key industries could also be negatively impacting the supply chain. In addition, consumers could be impacted by a recent policy change that intentionally slows some deliveries made by the U.S. Postal Service.
The supply chain crisis has been accompanied by concerns about rising inflation rates and the impact on consumers. Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell blamed the country’s elevated inflation rate on supply chain issues and predicted that it would continue “likely well into next year.”
Recent supply chain difficulties have not been limited to the United States, with a similar situation happening simultaneously in many areas of the world. Some economists have echoed Psaki on the root cause, arguing that the problem has been fueled by an increase in demand after the global economy quickly recovered from a low point at the beginning of the pandemic.
“I think the real issue here is demand, and demand is driving what is this perception of shortages even though it’s not clear to me that supplies are below where they were in 2019, except in things like automobiles,” Robert Koopman, the World Trade Organization’s chief economist, told Reuters. “It’s part of the cost of the quick recovery.”