Sometimes it's evident that things are not going well economically. There are the obvious occurrences, like the huge unfortunate situation of home foreclosures across the nation. There is the bailout of a major car company. But sometimes, you have to be on the inside to see that sales are down even in the local national chainstore....
No, I'm not on the inside at the local national chainstore, but leading up to the holidays in December, I was talking to someone who is. According to memory, and from what I understand, the procedure at the store is to keep track of daily sales and then to compare those sales to the sales made on the same date of the previous year. The day that we were discussing, a day that you would expect to be full of sales because of its proximity to the holidays, sales were down 13% from the previous year. And employees' hours were being cut during the same time period. Granted, it is my understanding that the hours would go back up after the holiday season, but it seemed a little backwards to me if everything is going well--wouldn't it be expected that hours would go up in what would normally be considered a peak buying period? And however they calculate their areas, the person that I was talking to indicated that the store we were discussing was actually doing better than other stores to which they are compared.
Personally, I found this information alarming. If you can't afford to shop at the local national chainstore, then you don't have many choices left, and my concern is that if this chain is struggling, then the next step I would think is coming is that its prices will (continue to) go up to make up for lost revenue in sales.
Please do what you can according to what you can afford to get some emergency supplies in storage. Perhaps it will not be unemployment/underemployment that will be the reason that you find that you are glad that you put some food away--it may be a natural disaster, a quarantine, a truckers' strike, higher food prices, a terrorist incident that disrupts the food supply chain, or someone else's food emergency that will either leave you glad that you put away supplies, or unhappy that you have not prepared enough. I am not trying to be an alarmist, or trying to predict anything. I am just pointing out that there are so many things that could happen to make emergency supplies necessary, that it just makes sense to put aside extra of what you would eat/use anyway just in case you find yourself in one of these, or any other emergency situation. Emergencies don't always happen to someone else. Just ask someone who has experienced one.
If you are fortunate to have enough to share, I would ask you to do what you can for those affected by the earthquake in Haiti. I have lived in Haiti, and it hurts to see and hear what is happening there.