U.S. inflation eased markedly in February from the quickest rate in nearly four years, though the annual pace remained the most brisk since 2012, the government reported Wednesday, March 15.
Americans paid a lot less for gasoline last month, offsetting higher priced items like food, shelter, clothing and transportation.
Marking their seventh straight monthly increase, consumer prices rose 0.1% in February after jumping 0.6% in January — their largest gain since February 2013, the Labor Department said in its monthly report on the Consumer Price Index. The CPI measures what Americans pay for everything from food to fuel oil.
"The February increase was the smallest 1-month rise … since July 2016," the Labor Department said.
Prices at the pump fell 3% last month — their first decline since August, after soaring 7.8% in January. Still, they were 30.7% higher than a year earlier for their largest 12-month increase since September 2011.
The broader index for energy, which combines items like gas, electricity and fuel oil, declined 1% in February after rising 4% previously. Energy prices advanced 15.2% over the last 12 months.
Overall food prices picked up for a second month in a row, up 0.2% from 0.1%, after registering flat for sixth straight months. They are flat over the longer 12-month haul.
Stripping the more volatile food and energy components, so-called core consumer prices gained 0.2% in February from 0.3% in January.
Shelter costs moved up 0.3% after gaining 0.2% previously. They remained 3.5% higher over the past 12 months. Components of shelter include pricing items like rent, rental equivalence, lodging away from home, and housing at school. The used cars and trucks index was one of the few items to decline last month, dropping 0.6%.
U.S. inflation soared 2.7% through the 12 months ended February, the biggest year-on-year advance since reaching to the same level in March 2012. They were last higher in February 2012 at 2.9%. (See annual inflation rates charted.) Inflation grew 2.5% through the 12 months ending January.
Core inflation rose 2.2% on an annual basis after increasing 2.3% previously. 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 its key interest rate.
"This was the fifteenth straight month the 12-month change remained in the range of 2.1 to 2.3 percent," the Labor Department’s report noted.
The following table of key inflation figures is for the last seven months through February, as published by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/cpi). To index the data each month, the BLS monitors the prices of about 80,000 consumer goods and services from around the nation. The monthly and annual pricing changes are in percentages.
August 2016 to February 2017 Consumer Prices – Gains & Losses in Percent
|Aug 2016||Sept 2016||Oct 2016||Nov 2016||Dec 2016||Jan 2017||Feb 2017||12 Month|
|Food at home||-0.2||-0.2||-0.2||-0.1||-0.2||.0||0.3||-1.7|
|Food away from home||0.2||0.2||0.1||0.1||0.2||0.4||0.2||2.4|
|Gasoline (all types)||-0.8||4.6||5.1||2.1||2.4||7.8||-3.0||30.7|
|Utility (piped) gas service||1.5||0.8||0.9||0.2||0.1||1.5||1.5||10.9|
|All items less food, energy||0.3||0.1||0.1||0.2||0.2||0.3||0.2||2.2|
|Commodities less food, energy||0.1||-0.1||.0||-0.2||.0||0.4||.0||-0.5|
|Used cars and trucks||-0.5||-0.2||-0.1||0.2||0.2||-0.4||-0.6||-4.3|
|Services less energy||0.3||0.2||0.2||0.3||0.3||0.3||0.3||3.1|
The BLS releases inflation data around the middle of a month based on consumer prices surveyed through to the previous month. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for March and the latest annual period becomes public on April 14, 2017.
CPI data is used in calculating inflation rates and in this site’s calculator for inflation. The US Inflation Calculator shows cumulative inflation and the change in buying power of the U.S. dollar over time.