U.S. Inflation Again Rises 1.2% Year-Over-Year; Consumer Prices Climb 0.2% in November

U.S. inflation remained tame year-over-year even as consumers in November paid a bit more on the whole for goods and services, according to a government report released Thursday, Dec. 10.

Altogether, the annual picture was the same, or much the same, for inflation, food prices, the cost of energy and for core inflation as it was in the 12-month period ending October.

U.S. consumer prices rose 0.2% in November after being unchanged in the prior month, the Labor Department said in its monthly report on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI is a broad measure of what Americans pay for everyday items ranging from clothing to cars.

"The seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index was broad-based, with no component accounting for more than a quarter of the increase," the Labor Department’s monthly report stated.

Prices at the pump dipped 0.4% after sliding 0.5% in October. Before then, they advanced for four straight months. Gasoline prices declined 19.3% from a year ago. The broader index for energy, which combines items like gasoline, electricity and fuel oil, increased 0.4% in November after inching 0.1% higher. Energy prices year-over-year dropped 9.4%.

Overall food prices moved down 0.1% for the month — their first decline since July — after climbing 0.2% in October. Food prices rose 3.7% year-on-year.

Excluding the more volatile food and energy components, so-called core consumer prices increased 0.2% in November after being flat in October.

"The indexes for lodging away from home, household furnishings and operations, recreation, apparel, airline fares, and motor vehicle insurance all increased in November," the report noted. "The indexes for used cars and trucks, medical care, and new vehicles all declined over the month," it added.

Shelter or housing costs rose 0.1% for a fourth straight month, while their year-over-year level was 1.9%. Components of shelter include pricing items like rent for apartments, rental equivalence, lodging away from home such as hotels and motels, and housing at schools. The index accounts for about one-third of the entire CPI.

In the headline figure, U.S. inflation advanced 1.2% in the 12 months through November, the same increase as previously. As recently as May, the rate at 0.1% was the weakest 12-month gain since September 2015. In contrast, they started 2020 at 2.5%, for the biggest annual inflation rate this year.

Core inflation rose 1.6% over the past year, matching the increase for the period ending October. Earlier in 2020 (both in May and in June), the core rate at 1.2% was the lowest since March 2011. February at 2.4% registered as the largest annual core inflation rate this year. The core, "all items less food and energy" index 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.

"Inflation will remain low in the near term … there are still huge swathes of excess capacity in many parts of the economy," Reuters quoted Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "With unemployment elevated, wage pressures are limited."

The following table of key inflation figures is for the last seven months through November, as published by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/cpi) on Nov. 12, 2020. To index the data each month, the BLS monitors the prices of about 80,000 consumer goods and services from around the nation. All monthly and annual pricing changes are in percentages.

May 2020 to November 2020 Consumer Prices – Gains & Losses in Percent

  May 2020 June 2020 July 2020 August 2020 September 2020 October 2020 November 2020 12 Month
All items -0.1 0.6 0.6 0.4 0.2 .0 0.2 1.2
  Food 0.7 0.6 -0.4 0.1 .0 0.2 -0.1 3.7
    Food at home 1.0 0.7 -1.1 -0.1 -0.4 0.1 -0.3 3.6
    Food away from home 0.4 0.5 0.5 0.3 0.6 0.3 0.1 3.8
  Energy -1.8 5.1 2.5 0.9 0.8 0.1 0.4 -9.4
    Energy commodities -3.5 11.7 5.3 2.0 -0.1 -0.5 -0.2 -19.3
      Gasoline (all types) -3.5 12.3 5.6 2.0 0.1 -0.5 -0.4 -19.3
      Fuel oil -6.3 10.2 4.3 3.9 -5.3 -0.3 3.6 -26.4
    Energy services -0.5 -0.2 .0 -0.2 1.6 0.8 1.1 2.3
      Electricity -0.8 -0.3 0.3 -0.2 0.9 1.2 0.5 1.6
      Utility (piped) gas service 0.8 .0 -1.0 -0.2 4.2 -0.7 3.1 4.4
  All items less food, energy -0.1 0.2 0.6 0.4 0.2 .0 0.2 1.6
    Commodities less food, energy -0.2 0.2 0.7 1.0 0.8 -0.2 0.1 1.4
      New vehicles 0.3 .0 0.8 .0 0.3 0.4 -0.1 1.6
      Used cars and trucks -0.4 -1.2 2.3 5.4 6.7 -0.1 -1.3 10.9
      Apparel -2.3 1.7 1.1 0.6 -0.5 -1.2 0.9 -5.2
      Medical care 0.1 0.2 .0 -0.1 .0 -0.8 -0.3 -1.1
    Services less energy .0 0.3 0.6 0.2 .0 0.1 0.2 1.7
      Shelter 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 1.9
      Transportation -3.6 2.1 3.6 .0 -0.9 0.1 1.8 -3.4
      Medical care 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.1 .0 -0.3 -0.1 3.2

 

The BLS tends to release inflation data around the middle of a month based on consumer prices surveyed in the previous month. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for December and the latest annual period become public on Jan. 13, 2021.

CPI data is used in calculating inflation rates and in this site’s U.S. Inflation Calculator. The US Inflation Calculator shows cumulative inflation and the change in buying power of the U.S. dollar over time.

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