Inflation Rate Surges at Its Fastest Pace Since 1981

Inflation Rate Surges at Its Fastest Pace Since 1981

While inflation is sky-high at the moment, it may be trending downwards in the months to come.  

The consumer price index (CPI) surged 8.5 percent between March 2021 and March 2022, marking the largest twelve-month increase in the inflation rate since December 1981, according to Labor Department data released Tuesday.

The registered percentage beat both the Dow Jones estimate of 8.4 percent for March and February’s official inflation rate of 7.9 percent. Despite the data confirming that inflation is still elevated, U.S. markets reacted mostly positively.

Peak Inflation?

“The big news in the March report was that core price pressures finally appear to be moderating,” Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, told CNBC, adding that March’s data could “mark the peak” for inflation.

Similar sentiments were shared by Sam Bullard, managing director and senior economist at Wells Fargo. “We recently released our updated forecast and believe CPI will peak in March … as higher year-ago base effects take hold and the pace of overall economic growth slows which should lead to price growth easing on a sequential basis this summer,” Bullard wrote over the weekend, per U.S. News & World Report.

Costs Continue Rising

Still, millions of Americans are currently forced to contend with fast-rising costs on everything from gas and food to rent and used cars.

According to USA Today, fuel prices “were the chief culprit, jumping 18.3 percent and accounting for more than half the overall rise in costs.”

In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, average gas prices across the nation are still elevated, sitting between $4.10 and $4.20, according to AAA data. But for a third consecutive week, the average gas price has slowly headed lower, falling about nine cents from a week ago and twenty-four cents from a month ago. The current price, though, is still $1.26 per gallon higher than last year.

In addition, grocery prices have continued to trek higher—1.5 percent from the prior month and 10 percent over the past year. Breakfast cereal prices rose 2.4 percent monthly and 9.2 percent from a year ago. Prices for rice, pasta, and cornmeal came in at 2.8 percent higher than last month and 9.3 percent higher from one year ago. The price of bacon was up 18.2 percent from a year ago, while chicken was up by 13.4 percent and fish rose by 11.3 percent.

Moreover, the cost of services is trending higher as pandemic restrictions ease. Airfares were found to have surged 10.7 percent monthly and 23.6 percent annually, while hotel rates increased 3.3 percent monthly and 25.1 percent annually. As for used vehicle prices, they declined 3.8 percent for the month, but they are still up a hefty 35.3 percent on the year.

“Overall, this report is encouraging, at the margin, though it is far too soon to be sure that the next few core prints will be as low; much depends on the path of used vehicle prices, which is very hard to forecast with confidence,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, per CNBC.

“We’re sure they will fall, but the speed of the decline is what matters,” he added.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters.