WASHINGTON (AP) — Inflation soared over the past year at its highest rate in four decades, hammering America’s consumers, wiping out pay raises and reinforcing the Federal Reserve’s decision to begin raising borrowing rates across the economy.
The Labor Department said Thursday that consumer prices jumped 7.5% last month compared with 12 months earlier, the steepest year-over-year increase since February 1982. The acceleration of prices ranged across the economy, from food and energy to apartment rents and electricity.
When measured from December to January, inflation was 0.6%, the same as the previous month and more than economists had expected. Prices had risen 0.7% from October to November and 0.9% from September to October.
Shortages of supplies and workers, heavy doses of federal aid, ultra-low interest rates and robust consumer spending combined to send inflation leaping in the past year. And there are few signs that it will slow significantly anytime soon.
Food costs, driven by pricier eggs, cereal and dairy products, increased 0.9% in January. New car prices, which have jumped during the pandemic because of a shortage of computer chips, were unchanged last month but are up 12.2% from a year ago. The surge in new-car prices has, in turn, accelerated used-car prices; they rose 1.5% in January and are up a dizzying 41% from a year ago.
The steady rise in prices has left many Americans less able to afford food, gas, rent, child care and other necessities. More broadly, inflation has emerged as the biggest risk factor for the economy.