Inflation rose modestly in August with Americans paying less at the pump and as the overall cost of energy dropped for the first time since April, inflation figures from the United States government showed today in Washington.
Conversely, prices did rise sharply for medical care and they continued to gain in major items like food, clothing and shelter.
Consumer prices edged up 0.1% in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said in its monthly report on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI measures how much US consumers pay for certain goods and services around the nation. The figure was below expectations as economists had pegged the likely August increase at 0.2%, matching July’s gain.
Gasoline prices jumped 6.3% in June and 1% in July but ended lower last month by 0.1%. Offering Americans some needed relief, prices at the pump are now down 2.4% from a year ago.
On the flip side, food prices have jumped 1.4% over the past 12 months. They climbed 0.1% for a second straight month in August. Grocery products with higher price tags included cereals and bakery products by 0.3%; dairy and related products by 0.4%; fruits and vegetables by 1.2%; and meats, poultry, fish, and eggs by 0.6%.
Excluding the more volatile food and energy categories, the so-called core US inflation rate also increased 0.1% in August after rising 0.2% in each of the three previous months.
"The shelter index increased 0.2 percent, the same increase as in June and July, with the rent index increasing 0.4 percent and the index for owners’ equivalent rent rising 0.2 percent, but the index for lodging away from home falling 0.7 percent," noted the BLS in its report. "The index for medical care increased 0.6 percent in August. The medical care services index rose 0.7 percent with the index for hospital services increasing 1.9 percent. The medical care commodities index rose 0.4 percent."
Notably, the 0.7% surge in medical care services was the most since September 2010. Also gaining in August were personal care by 0.3%; tobacco by 0.4%; and clothing by 0.1%. New vehicle prices were unchanged. Falling were used vehicle prices by 0.1%, hotel prices by 0.7%, and air fares by 3.1%.
US inflation over the last 12 months climbed 1.5% after advancing 2.0% in the 12 months ended July. Past US inflation rates reported by the BLS for 2013 include annual increases of 1.8% by June, 1.4% by May, 1.1% by April, 1.5% by March, 2% by February and 1.6% by January.
Core US inflation year-over-year gained 1.8% through August. The core 12-month inflation rate was at 1.7% in July. Sliding back further, prior 12-month period advances tallied to 1.6% in June, matching 1.7% in May and April, 1.9% in March, 2.0% in February and 1.9% in each of the three months before then.
The core annual inflation rate is a benchmark figure closely watched by the Federal Reserve as it helps decide where the central bank sets its key interest rate. The latest 1.8% increase is below the Fed’s 2% inflation target rate.
"We have seen the trough for the core rate during the summer. We expect we will see the core drift higher later this year," said Peter Newland, economist with Barclays Capital in New York. "The core inflation should move closer to their (the Fed’s) target over the next several months."
Here are government-watched consumer goods and services and their percent price changes in February through August and over the past 12 months:
Feb 2012 – Aug 2013 Consumer Prices – Gains & Losses in Percent
|Feb 2013||Mar 2013||Apr 2013||May 2013||June 2013||Jul 2013||Aug 2013||12 Month|
|Food at home||0.1||-0.1||0.1||-0.3||0.2||0.1||0.1||1.0|
|Food away from home||0.1||0.2||0.3||0.2||0.2||0.2||0.2||2.0|
|Gasoline (all types)||9.1||-4.4||-8.1||.0||6.3||1.0||-0.1||-2.4|
|Utility (piped) gas service||1.2||1.0||4.4||2.4||-0.4||-2.8||-2.3||4.8|
|All items less food, energy||0.2||0.1||0.1||0.2||0.2||0.2||0.1||1.8|
|Comm. less food, energy||.0||-0.1||.0||.0||0.2||.0||.0||.0|
|Used cars and trucks||0.8||1.2||0.6||-0.1||-0.4||-0.4||-0.1||-1.0|
|Services less energy||0.2||0.2||0.1||0.2||0.2||0.2||0.2||2.4|
US inflation information is collected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS is scheduled to report the next set of inflation data in the form of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on October 16, 2013 at 8:30 AM ET. This round of data will include the change in consumer prices through September 2013.
CPI data is used to calculate inflation rates and is used for this site’s US Inflation Calculator. The calculator provides accumulated inflation and the change in the buying power of the US dollar from one date to another.