In October, overall inflation remained unchanged as American consumers spent slightly more on items like food and shelter, while spending less on gasoline. Moreover, there was a slight easing of underlying inflationary pressures, both on a monthly and yearly basis.
In the headline monthly figure, U.S. consumer prices registered flat in October, after rising by 0.4% in September, 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 eggs to energy.
Overall food prices for the month rose by 0.3%, following three straight 0.2% monthly gains. Within the food category, grocery prices advanced by 0.3%, compared to the previous 0.1% increase. Additionally, dining-out expenses rose 0.4% for a second month in a row.
"Four of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased over the month. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose 0.7 percent in October as the index for beef increased 1.2 percent and the index for pork rose 1.3 percent," the Labor Department’s monthly report said.
Meanwhile, food inflation over the past year remained elevated at 3.3%, but lower than the previous rate of 3.7%. In the same timeframe, grocery prices saw a 2.1% increase, while the expense of dining out grew by 5.4%. These numbers differ from their prior rates of 2.4% for groceries and 6% for dining out.
In other sectors, prices at the pump fell by 5% in October, contrasting against the previous 2.1% increase. When looking at a year-on-year comparison, gas prices dropped by 5.3%, compared to the previous rise of 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, encompassing items such as gasoline, electricity, and fuel oil, saw a 2.5% drop in the month of October, following a rise of 1.5% in September. Energy prices year-over-year declined by 4.5%, which compares to the previously recorded fall of 0.5%.
Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the rate of core consumer prices in October rose by 0.2% following two consecutive 0.3% monthly increases.
Shelter or housing prices advanced by 0.3% for the month — their 42nd consecutive monthly increase, after rising 0.6% in September, while registering another significant year-over-year increase of 6.7%.
For recent 12-month comparisons, they registered gains 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, marking their most significant 12-month 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 edged up 0.1% for the month after falling 0.8% previously. They increased 2.6% from a year ago.
- New vehicle prices fell by 0.1% following two monthly gains of 0.3%. They showed a year-over-year increase of 1.9%.
- Prices for used cars and trucks fell for a fifth consecutive month, down 0.8% after falling by 2.5% in September. In comparison to prices from a year ago, they have dropped by 7.1%. 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 13.2%. As for the month, they felly by 0.9% following a 0.3% increase.
In terms of the headline annual rate, inflation increased by 3.2% from a year earlier, showing a slowdown from the 3.7% rate reported for both the 12 months ending in August and September, when it had also increased from 3.2% in July.
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% over the past year, down just a bit from 4.1% previously. 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 third instance, the current pace is the slowest since September 2021.
As recently as last September, the 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 October, as published by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/cpi) on Nov. 14, 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.
April 2022 to October 2023 Consumer Prices – Gains & Losses in Percent
(Seasonally Adjusted from Prior Month and Unadjusted 12-Month)
|Apr 2023||May 2023||June 2023||July 2023||Aug 2023||Sept 2023||Oct 2023||12 Month|
|Food at home||-0.2||0.1||0.0||0.3||0.2||0.1||0.3||2.1|
|Food away from home||0.4||0.5||0.4||0.2||0.3||0.4||0.4||5.4|
|Gasoline (all types)||3||-5.6||1.0||0.2||10.6||2.1||-5.0||-5.3|
|Utility (piped) gas service||-4.9||-2.6||-1.7||2.0||0.1||-1.9||1.2||-15.8|
|All items less food, energy||0.4||0.4||0.2||0.2||0.3||0.3||0.2||4.0|
|Commodities less food, energy||0.6||0.6||-0.1||-0.3||-0.1||-0.4||-0.1||0.1|
|Used cars and trucks||4.4||4.4||-0.5||-1.3||-1.2||-2.5||-0.8||-7.1|
|Services less energy||0.4||0.4||0.3||0.4||0.4||0.6||0.3||5.5|
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 November and the latest annual period will be made public on Dec. 12, 2023.
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.