Compared with just one month ago, consumers are paying slightly more for most goods and services. Compared with a year ago, however, they’re paying significantly more, according to Labor Department data released this week.
The Labor Department reported that the consumer price index, a key inflation gauge that measures how much Americans pay for goods and services, rose about 0.4 percent in September. The year-over-year prices increased 5.4 percent, which some noted is the largest yearly increase since January 1991.
The agency’s report (pdf), released Wednesday, breaks down how much prices have increased for certain key services and goods, including gas, food prices, electricity, and used cars:
Gas: 42.1 percent
Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs: 10.5 percent
Propane, kerosene, and firewood: 27.6 percent
Fuel oil: 42.6 percent
Electricity: 5.2 percent
Peanut butter: 6.2 percent
Coffee: 4.0 percent
Bacon and similar products: 19.3 percent
Uncooked beef steaks: 22.1 percent
Furniture: 11.2 percent
Used cars and trucks: 24.4 percent
New cars and trucks: 8.4 percent
Rental cars: 42.9 percent
Footwear: 6.5 percent
Motor vehicle maintenance and repair: 4.0 percent
Postage and delivery services: 3.2 percent
Haircuts and other personal care services: 5.0 percent
Sporting goods: 7.5 percent
Appliances: 7.1 percent
Restaurant prices: 4.7 percent
Rent. 2.9 percent
While some economists, including those at the Federal Reserve, have stressed that the current inflation surge is transitory, prices have continued to rise. According to Labor Department data, wages only increased by 4.6 percent compared to the previous year, meaning that inflation is outpacing wage growth.
Analysts have blamed a combination of factors for the spike in inflation, including supply chain disruptions and bottlenecks, energy shortages in the Asia-Pacific and Europe, and COVID-19-related concerns and vaccine mandates.
Queen’s College President and economist Mohamed El-Erian, in an interview on Oct. 11, said he believes inflation is going to become “more and more of an issue for markets” and that it will “separate winners and losers in a significant way.”
But on Wednesday, the Biden administration issued a series of statements, news releases, and announcements that the White House will attempt to alleviate supply chain issues, namely asking shipping companies like FedEx and UPS to dedicate more shifts to deal with bottlenecks. The administration also asked the Port of Los Angeles to work around the clock, seven days a week, amid a backlog of shipping containers.
This week, Republican lawmakers have gone on the offensive against the Biden administration and Democrats, arguing that their policies—including those focused on climate change—have significantly contributed to the year-over-year inflation.
The White House also is weighing steps to address gas shortages and price surges, according to press secretary Jen Psaki, who told reporters Wednesday that Biden “has asked his economic team, as they do on any range of issues impacting the public, to continue to discuss what the options are that we can take to address these shortages.”
Without elaborating, Psaki said that she is “not in a position yet to outline additional steps we can take” and said there is a “range” of steps the Biden administration can take.