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U.S. Inflation Rate Dips to 3.1% in November, with Slight Upturn in Consumer Prices

In November, overall inflation picked up a bit, further contributing to the price pressures that U.S. consumers experience when paying for goods and services, especially when compared to just a few years ago. However, the rate of these increases has generally slowed, with housing costs being the most notable exception. A significant drop in energy prices helped to keep inflation in check, at least in November and as compared to a year ago.

In the headline monthly figure, U.S. consumer prices rose by 0.1% in November, after being unchanged in October, the Labor Department said in its monthly report on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI is a closely watched inflation gauge that measures what Americans consumers pay for everyday items, ranging from coffee to cars.

Overall, food prices for the month increased by 0.2%, down from the previous 0.3%. Within the food category, grocery prices edged up by 0.1%, compared to the earlier 0.3% gain. Additionally, dining-out expenses rose 0.4% for a third month in a row.

Meanwhile, food inflation in the past year has continued to stay high at 2.9%, though it is lower than the previous rate of 3.3%. During this same period, grocery prices experienced a 1.7% increase, whereas the cost of dining out rose by 5.3%. These figures contrast with their prior rates of 2.1% for groceries and 5.4% for dining out.

In other sectors, prices at the pump dropped by 6% in November, contrasting with the previous month’s 5% increase. When looking at a year-on-year comparison, gas prices declined by 8.9%, compared to the previous fall of 5.3%. To offer some context, the inflation rate for gasoline over the 12 months ending in June 2022 surged by 59.9%, marking the highest level since March 1980.

The broader energy index, including items like gasoline, electricity, and fuel oil, fell 2.3% in November, following a 2.5% decrease in October. Energy prices year-over-year declined by 5.4%, which compares to the previously recorded decline of 4.5%.

Excluding volatile food and energy components, the rate of core consumer prices in November rose by 0.3%, following the prior monthly increase of 0.2%.

Shelter or housing prices increased by 0.4% for the month, marking their 43rd consecutive monthly rise. This follows a 0.3% increase in October and represents another substantial year-over-year growth of 6.5%.

For some recent 12-month comparisons, they recorded increases of 6.7% in October, 7.2% in September, 7.3% in August, 7.7% in July, 7.8% in June, 8% in May, 8.1% in April, and 8.2% in March, posting their most significant annual increase since June 1982.

Components of shelter include prices of items like rent for apartments, rental equivalence, lodging away from home such as hotels and motels, and housing at schools. This index accounts for about one-third of the entire CPI.

In other closely watched pricing areas:

  • Clothing prices declined by 1.3% for the month after edging 0.1% higher previously. They increased 1.1% from a year ago.
  • New vehicle prices fell by 0.1% for a second month in a row. They showed a year-over-year increase of 1.3%.
  • Prices for used cars and trucks rose by 1.6%, after five monthly declines, with the last one down by 0.8%. In comparison to prices from a year ago, they have dropped by 3.8%. These rates stand in stark contrast to the situation in February of the previous year when they experienced a sharp year-on-year increase of 41.2%.
  • When compared to the previous year, airline fares dropped by 12.1%. As for the month, they fell by 0.4% following a 0.9% decline.

In terms of the headline annual rate, inflation increased to 3.1% from a year earlier, showing a very slight slowdown from the 3.2% rate reported for the 12 months ending in October.

For some perspective, there was a notable peak in the inflation rate at 9.1% during the 12-month period ending in July 2022. It was the quickest rate of inflation since November 1981. Additionally, until March of this year, inflation rates had been at or above 6% for seventeen consecutive months.

Meanwhile, core inflation increased by 4% in the year through November, the same as the previous rate. This core, "all items less food and energy" index is one of the benchmark inflation rates monitored by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to guide the central bank in setting its key interest rate. For a fourth instance, the current pace is the slowest since September 2021.

"Ongoing housing price pressures and their outsized influence on inflation overall tell a large part of the story of why calls for early and rapid Fed monetary policy easing should be viewed with significant scrutiny," Reuters quoted Kurt Rankin, senior economist at PNC Financial in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "The Fed will not cut rates until inflation’s drivers are well and truly tamed."

"Core inflation might be stickier than the market believes, which should push rate cuts further into the second half of next year," MarketWatch quoted chief economist Eugenio Aleman of Raymond James.

As recently as September 2022, the annual core inflation rate at 6.6% was the highest since August 1982. Many economists consider the core reading as a better predictor for future inflation.

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 Dec. 12, 2023. 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 2023 to November 2023 Consumer Prices – Gains & Losses in Percent
(Seasonally Adjusted from Prior Month and Unadjusted 12-Month)

  May 2023 June 2023 July 2023 Aug 2023 Sept 2023 Oct 2023 Nov 2023 12 Month
All items 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.6 0.4 0.0 0.1 3.1
  Food 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.2 2.9
    Food at home 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.3 0.1 1.7
    Food away from home 0.5 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.4 5.3
  Energy -3.6 0.6 0.1 5.6 1.5 -2.5 -2.3 -5.4
    Energy commodities -5.6 0.8 0.3 10.5 2.3 -4.9 -5.8 -9.8
      Gasoline (all types) -5.6 1.0 0.2 10.6 2.1 -5.0 -6.0 -8.9
      Fuel oil -7.7 -0.4 3.0 9.1 8.5 -0.8 -2.7 -24.8
    Energy services -1.4 0.4 -0.1 0.2 0.6 0.5 1.7 -0.1
      Electricity -1 0.9 -0.7 0.2 1.3 0.3 1.4 3.4
      Utility (piped) gas service -2.6 -1.7 2.0 0.1 -1.9 1.2 2.8 -10.4
  All items less food, energy 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.3 4.0
    Commodities less food, energy 0.6 -0.1 -0.3 -0.1 -0.4 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
      New vehicles -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.3 0.3 -0.1 -0.1 1.3
      Used cars and trucks 4.4 -0.5 -1.3 -1.2 -2.5 -0.8 1.6 -3.8
      Apparel 0.3 0.3 0.0 0.2 -0.8 0.1 -1.3 1.1
      Medical care 0.6 0.2 0.5 0.6 -0.3 0.4 0.5 5.0
    Services less energy 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.6 0.3 0.5 5.5
      Shelter 0.6 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.6 0.3 0.4 6.5
      Transportation 0.8 0.1 0.3 2.0 0.7 0.8 1.1 10.1
      Medical care -0.1 0.0 -0.4 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.6 -0.9


The BLS releases inflation data around the middle of the month for consumer prices surveyed up to the previous month. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for December and the latest annual period will be made public on Jan. 11, 2024.

The CPI data is also used to calculate inflation rates and to power this site’s U.S. Inflation Calculator. The U.S. Inflation Calculator displays the cumulative inflation and the change in the buying power of the U.S. dollar over time.


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