US Inflation in April Climbs at Quickest Rate in 3 Years

US inflation increased in April by the most in over three years as American consumers paid more for a broad range of goods and services to include food, gasoline, housing and healthcare.

The advances also quickened the annual rate of inflation by two percentage points over the previous level, according to government data released on Tuesday, May 17.

In the headline monthly figure, consumer prices jumped 0.4% in April after rising 0.1% in March, the US Labor Department said in its monthly report on the Consumer Price Index. The CPI measures what consumers pay for everything from airfares to fruits and vegetables. The monthly gain is the biggest since February 2013.

Prices at the pump surged 8.1% in April — the most since August 2012, after climbing 2.2% in March. They dived 13% as recently as February. Still, gasoline prices are 13.8% lower than a year ago. The broader index for energy, which combines items like gasoline, electricity and fuel oil, rose 3.4% in April after rising 0.9% previously. But again, energy prices are 8.9% lower than a year earlier.

Food prices picked up 0.2% last month after falling 0.2% in March. They are 0.9% higher over the past 12 months.

Excluding volatile food and energy, so-called core consumer prices increased 0.2% in April after the 0.1% advance a month earlier. Core prices have trended higher this year. In February, they rose 0.3% to match January’s level, which registered as the largest increase since August 2011.

The cost of owning a home or renting an apartment climbed 0.3% in April, and is 3.2% higher than a year earlier. Medical care prices also rose 0.3% last month, and they are 3.1% higher than a year ago.

Cloths are cheaper, however, with prices falling 0.3% last month. In March, they tumbled 1.1% for the biggest drop since September 1998 and the first decline in three months. Clothing costs are 0.6% lower over the past 12 months.

US inflation advanced 1.1% in the past year after rising 0.9% previously. As recently as January, the inflation rate logged in at 1.4% for the highest level since October 2014. April’s increase is the second quickest since that time.

In rounding out the Labor Department’s report, core US inflation moved 2.1% quicker on an annual basis after running at 2.2% pace in the 12 months ended March.

"Overall core-services inflation continues to gradually firm, and we expect further firming this year," The Wall Street Journal quoted Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Barclays, in a note to clients. "We view this rise in inflation as consistent with our view that reduced slack in the U.S. economy will continue to put upward pressure on prices."

The core annual reading is one of the benchmark inflation rates monitored by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) as it helps the central bank decide where to set the key interest rate.

"Inflation pressures are picking up, I don’t think there is any need for the Fed to panic. They don’t need to hit their inflation target and declare victory," Reuters quoted Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. "They need to allow inflation to run hot for a little bit."

Below is inflation data from the last few months through April 2016, as published by the US Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/cpi). To get the data, the BLS monitors prices of consumer goods and services from around the nation. Prices are collected continually, analyzed and then summarized in monthly reports. The table offers monthly and annual changes in percentages.

October 2015 – April 2016 Consumer Prices – Gains & Losses in Percent

  Oct 2015 Nov 2015 Dec 2015 Jan 2016 Feb 2016 Mar 2016 Apr 2016 12 Month
All items 0.2 0.1 -0.1 .0 -0.2 0.1 0.4 1.1
  Food 0.1 -0.1 -0.2 .0 0.2 -0.2 0.2 0.9
    Food at home .0 -0.3 -0.4 -0.2 0.2 -0.5 0.1 -0.3
    Food away from home 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.2 2.7
  Energy 0.4 0.3 -2.4 -2.8 -6.0 0.9 3.4 -8.9
    Energy commodities 0.9 0.7 -4.8 -4.8 -12.5 1.9 7.8 -14.2
      Gasoline (all types) 0.9 0.8 -4.8 -4.8 -13.0 2.2 8.1 -13.8
      Fuel oil -1.1 -1.3 -7.8 -6.5 -2.9 1.7 1.9 -27.5
    Energy services -0.1 -0.2 -0.7 -0.7 0.1 0.2 -0.1 -3.1
      Electricity .01 0.2 -0.4 -0.7 -0.2 0.4 -0.3 -2.1
      Utility (piped) gas service -0.9 -1.7 -1.9 -0.6 1.0 -0.7 0.6 -6.5
  All items less food, energy 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.2 2.1
    Commodities less food, energy -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.2 0.3 -0.2 -0.1 -0.5
      New vehicles -0.1 .0 .0 0.3 0.2 .0 -0.3 .0
      Used cars and trucks -0.1 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.2 -0.1 -0.3 -1.5
      Apparel -0.5 -0.1 -0.2 0.6 1.6 -1.1 -0.3 -0.6
      Medical care 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.4 0.6 0.3 0.5 2.7
    Services less energy 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.3 3.0
      Shelter 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.3 3.2
      Transportation 0.1 0.5 0.3 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.7 3.3
      Medical care 0.7 0.3 0.1 0.5 0.5 0.1 0.3 3.1

 

The BLS usually publishes the latest batch of US inflation data around mid-month, with the consumer prices current to the previous month. The Consumer Price Index for May and the 12-month or annual period will be available on June 16, 2016.

CPI figures are used in calculating inflation rates. They are also used in this site’s calculator for inflation. The US Inflation Calculator tool, found on the homepage, shows accumulated inflation and the change in buying power of the American dollar over time.

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