US Inflation in September Rises, Annual Inflation Rate Stuck at 1.7%

Americans paid less to fill up their gas tanks last month, but continued to spend more for groceries, new inflation figures from the government show.

Prices at the pump fell for a third straight month yet the cost of food went up for a ninth consecutive month. Overall, the annual inflation rate stuck at the same level.

By the numbers, consumer prices picked up 0.1% in September after falling in August for the first time in almost one and a half years, according to the US Labor Department and its monthly report on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI measures the change in prices that consumers pay for certain goods and services throughout the United States.

Food prices advanced 0.3% last month after rising 0.2% previously. They have surged 3% from a year ago.

"Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs continued to rise, increasing 0.7 percent after a 1.5 percent increase in August," the Labor Department report noted, adding that "beef and veal rose 2.0 percent in September and has now risen 16.7 percent since January," and that "dairy and related products increased 0.5 percent, its tenth increase in the last 11 months."

Energy prices declined 0.7% in September following the prior 2.6% monthly tumble. Within the energy grouping, gasoline was down 1% compared to 4.1% previously. From a year ago, energy costs are 0.6% lower, led by a 3.6% decline in gasoline.

"There are very few price pressures throughout the economy," Bloomberg News quoted Gus Faucher, an economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh, who correctly projected last month’s CPI increase. "It’s generally positive for consumer spending."

Stripping out energy and food, which economists like to do for analysis since they are more volatile, so-called core consumer prices increased in September by 0.1%. They were unchanged in August, marking the first time since October 2010 that they failed to rise. As recently as May, the core monthly inflation rate surged 0.3% for the biggest increase since August 2011.

Core advancing items included:

  • Shelter, up 0.3% compared to 0.2% previously
  • Rent, up 0.3% compared to 0.2% previously
  • Dairy and related products, up 0.5% compared to 0.6% previously
  • Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose 0.7% compared to 1.5% previously
  • Medical care commodities, up 0.5% after falling 0.1% previously

Core declining items included:

  • Used cars and trucks, down 0.1% compared to 0.3% previously
  • Airfares, down 0.5% after dropping 4.7% previously. They had surged 10.9% over the previous 5 months ended June.
  • Tobacco, down 0.1% after being flat previously.

Several items were unchanged in September. Pricing for new vehicles was flat after rising 0.2%, clothing was flat following the prior month’s decline of 0.2%, and household furnishings was flat after dropping 0.3%.

US inflation increased 1.7% over the past 12 months, matching the year ended August. At 2.1% in the 12 months ended in May and in June, annual inflation rates peaked to the highest since October 2012. Other annual inflation rates reported by the Labor Department this year include gains of 2% in July and April, 1.5% in March, 1.1% in February and 1.6% in January.

Core US inflation advanced 1.7% over the past 12 months, which was also the same as in August. They were 1.9% in June and July. Other core 12-month inflation rates reported in 2014 include the May climb of 2%, the April increase of 1.8%, the March advance of 1.7% and the matching 1.6% gains in February and in January.

The core reading is the benchmark inflation figure monitored by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) as it helps in deciding where to set the key interest rate. The latest annual increase of 1.7% is below the Fed’s 2% annual inflation target.

Inflation data below lists recent monthly and annual percentage changes in prices of consumer goods and services that were surveyed and analyzed by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistic.

March 2014 – September 2014 Consumer Prices – Gains & Losses in Percent

  Mar 2014 Apr 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 Aug 2014 Sept 2014 12 Month
All items 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.1 -0.2 0.1 1.7
  Food 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.1 0.4 0.2 0.3 3.0
    Food at home 0.5 0.4 0.7 .0 0.4 0.2 0.3 3.2
    Food away from home 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.3 2.7
  Energy -0.1 0.3 0.9 1.6 -0.3 -2.6 -0.7 -0.6
    Energy commodities -2.0 1.9 0.6 3.0 -0.3 -3.9 -1.1 -3.3
      Gasoline (all types) -1.7 2.3 0.7 3.3 -0.3 -4.1 -1.0 -3.6
      Fuel oil -2.9 -3.0 -1.4 -1.7 -0.7 -1.2 -2.1 -3.2
    Energy services 2.6 -1.9 1.4 -0.4 -0.4 -0.6 -0.2 3.5
      Electricity 1.1 -2.6 2.3 0.2 -0.3 0.1 -0.7 2.8
      Utility (piped) gas service 7.5 0.3 -1.7 -2.6 -0.4 -2.8 1.6 5.8
  All items less food, energy 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.1 0.1 .0 0.1 1.7
    Commodities less food, energy .0 0.1 0.1 0.1 .0 -0.1 .0 -0.3
      New vehicles .0 0.3 0.2 -0.3 0.3 0.2 .0 0.3
      Used cars and trucks 0.4 0.5 -0.1 -0.4 -0.3 -0.3 -0.1 -0.4
      Apparel 0.3 .0 0.3 0.5 0.2 -0.2 .0 0.5
      Medical care -0.3 0.3 0.5 0.7 0.3 -0.1 0.5 2.9
    Services less energy 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.1 .0 0.2 2.4
      Shelter 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.3 3.0
      Transportation 0.2 0.7 1.0 0.1 -0.7 -0.6 0.1 1.4
      Medical care 0.3 0.3 0.3 .0 0.1 .0 0.1 1.7

 

Inflation data from the Bureau of Labor Statistic is released every month — usually about two weeks into a new month. The information details consumer prices through to the previous month. Data for October inflation, as provided by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and BLS summary report, is scheduled for release on November 20, 2014.

CPI data is used to calculate US inflation rates and is the backbone for this site’s inflation-adjusting calculator. The US Inflation Calculator shows accumulated inflation and the change in buying power of the US dollar between two dates.

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