US consumer prices hit new 40-year high
Propelled by surging costs for gas, food and housing, U.S. consumer inflation jumped 7.9 percent over the past year, the sharpest spike since 1982 and likely only a harbinger of even higher prices to come.
The increase reported on March 10 by the U.S. Labor Department reflected the 12 months ending in February and did not include the oil and gas price surges that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Since then, average gas prices nationally have jumped about 62 cents a gallon to $4.32.
Housing costs, which make up about a third of the government’s consumer price index, have risen sharply, a trend that’s unlikely to reverse anytime soon.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday acknowledged that rising prices are a problem and annual inflation will “remain very uncomfortably high.”
Compared to January, the CPI rose 0.8 percent, according to the data, which was within expectations but nonetheless higher than the 0.6 percent increase the month prior.
A 6.6 percent jump in gasoline prices accounted for a third of the monthly CPI increase, while overall food costs rose one percent and groceries rose 1.4 percent, the largest gains in both categories since April 2020.
Housing costs such as rent rose 0.5 percent compared to January and were up 4.7 percent in the latest 12 months, the report said.
Excluding volatile food and energy prices, CPI saw a monthly gain of 0.5 percent last month, slightly less than in January, and increased 6.4 percent over the past year.
For most Americans, inflation is running far ahead of the pay raises that many have received in the past year, making it harder for them to afford necessities like food, gas and rent.