The cost of living in the United States climbed in February for the first time in four months. Increases in areas like housing, energy, and food lifted overall inflation more than expected, new figures from the government show.
Reversing from a decline, inflation over the past year was unchanged after falling in January for the first time in over five years.
Consumer prices advanced 0.2% in February, the US Labor Department reported Tuesday, March 24, in its monthly report on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI measures what Americans pay for everything from cars, to clothing, to airline tickets, to milk and cereal. Economists had pegged an expected increase of 0.1% after the January drop of 0.7%, which was the biggest one-month decline since December 2008.
Gasoline prices rose for the first time since June, up 2.4%, though they are still 32.8% lower than a year ago. Americans also paid more for groceries and other food-related items last month, a familiar picture. Overall food prices rose 0.2% in February, and they had a streak of 12 monthly gains until flattening for one month in January. The cost of food has risen 3% over the past 12 months.
Stripping out food and energy, so-called core consumer prices also rose 0.2% in February to match the pace in January.
"In the near-term, the stronger dollar will continue to put downward pressure on imported goods prices," Reuters quoted Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto. "As the dampening effect from the stronger dollar fades in the second half of this year, we would expect to see core inflation gradually strengthen."
Gains were broad-based last month, with new vehicles 0.2% higher, used cars and truck prices surging 1%, clothing rising 0.3%, shelter advancing 0.2% and transportation costs up 0.3%. Also, medical care commodities shot up 0.7 with prescription drugs 0.6% higher, although the cost of health-care services fell 0.2% for their first decline since 1975.
In the longer period, US inflation was unchanged in the past 12 months through February after sliding 0.1% in January for a first reported drop in annual inflation rates since October 2009.
In rounding out the government’s report, core US inflation advanced 1.7% on a year-over-year basis after gaining 1.6% in the 12 months through January. This annual reading is the benchmark inflation rate monitored by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) as it helps the central bank decide where to set the key interest rate. The rate continues to stay under the Fed’s 2% annual inflation target. The FOMC said it expects inflation to remain low in the near term but to gradually rise.
"The Committee expects inflation to rise gradually toward 2% over the medium term as the labor market improves further and the transitory effects of energy price declines and other factors dissipate," the FOMC said in a statement released at the end of a two-day policy meeting that ended March 18.
Inflation data listed in the table below offers recent monthly and annual percentage changes in prices of consumer goods and services that were surveyed, analyzed and then summarized by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/cpi).
August 2014 – February 2015 Consumer Prices – Gains & Losses in Percent
|Aug 2014||Sept 2014||Oct 2014||Nov 2014||Dec 2014||Jan 2015||Feb 2015||12 Month|
|Food at home||0.3||0.3||0.2||0.1||0.2||-0.2||0.1||2.9|
|Food away from home||0.2||0.3||0.2||0.4||0.3||0.2||0.3||3.1|
|Gasoline (all types)||-2.7||-0.9||-2.0||-7.2||-9.2||-18.7||2.4||-32.8|
|Utility (piped) gas service||-1.9||0.4||-1.9||-1.3||1.4||-3.4||-2.0||-6.5|
|All items less food, energy||0.1||0.1||0.2||0.1||0.1||0.2||0.2||1.7|
|Commodities less food, energy||-0.1||0.1||.0||-0.3||-0.2||-0.1||0.2||-0.5|
|Used cars and trucks||.0||.0||-0.6||-0.9||-0.8||-0.1||1.0||-2.9|
|Services less energy||0.1||0.2||0.2||0.2||0.2||0.3||0.1||2.5|
Bureau of Labor Statistic data for the United States inflation is published monthly. The information details consumer prices through to the previous month. Consumer Price Index data with March inflation and through the annual period becomes public on April 17, 2015.
CPI data is used to calculate US inflation rates and it is the backbone for this site’s inflation-adjusting calculator. The US Inflation Calculator provides accumulated inflation and the change in buying power of the US dollar over time.