The political spin from both sides of the aisle may paint a confusing picture, but the numbers certainly bring a degree of clarity to where the economy is currently. Inflation accelerated in September with consumer prices rising 8.2% over last year as prices on a host of items intensified pressure on households and wiped-out gains in worker pay. Driving that point home, in a Reuters story last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported a median drop in real wages of more than 8.5% from one year ago as a result of inflation. The report also stated “The current time period is unparalleled in terms of the challenge employed workers face.” There’s plenty of challenges facing employers too, as the unemployment rate dropped again to 3.5%, matching the rate from July. At the same time, the labor force participation rate was little changed at 62.3 percent for the month. Leisure and hospitality added 83,000 jobs in September with food services and drinking places accounting for 60,000 of those jobs. Notwithstanding, employment in leisure and hospitality remains below pre-pandemic February 2020 level by 1.1 million or 6.7 percent. The worsening economic picture continues the pressure on the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates.