U.S. Experiencing Largest CPI Increase in Four Decades

A Woman looks at receipts
Woman looking at receipts | Image by Shutterstock

Higher gas and food prices are driving the largest 12-month increase in the consumer price index (CPI) since 1981, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

The CPI is a national measurement of what consumers pay for goods and services.

In a recently-released summary, BLS reported that the CPI across all indexes had increased to 8.6% since May 2021, jumping 1% last month from the previous one.

The energy index saw a significant increase in May, rising 3.9%, and the gasoline index rose 4.1%. The jump last month was followed by gasoline prices hitting a national all-time high average in June, reaching $5.02 for a gallon of regular gasoline. BLS said the gasoline index grew 48.7% over the last 12 months.

BLS reported a rise of 8% in May for natural gas, the greatest monthly increase in nearly two decades, and a 12-month jump of 30.2%, the largest increase since 2008. The index for electricity increased 1.3% in May and 12% over the past 12 months, its largest jump since 2006.

Over the last 12 months, the index for fuel oil rose 106.7%, the most considerable increase since BLS began tracking the CPI in 1935, the summary notes.

The indexes for food consumed both inside and outside of the home also grew in May. Overall, the food index increased 10.1% in the last year, which BLS said was the first increase of 10% or more since 1981.

Consumers paid 1.4% more for groceries in May than in April, marking the fifth consecutive month of increases greater than or equal to 1%.

In May, prices for dairy products were up 2.9%, nonalcoholic beverages up 1.7%, and cereals and bakery items up 1.5%. The index for eggs rose 5% in May, up 32.2% from a year ago. While the index for fresh fruits and vegetables had decreased in April, it was back up 0.6% in May.

Overall, the index for food at home rose 11.9% over the last 12 months, marking the largest increase in that index since 1979.

Consumers eating meals outside of the home in May saw a 0.7% rise in prices, according to the BLS, following a 0.6% increase in April. The index rose 7.4% over the last 12 months.

All other indexes combined, less food and energy, accounted for 0.6% of May’s CPI increase, which mirrors the previous month.

Homebuyers saw a 0.6% increase in prices for May, the largest increase since 2004, the BLS reported. The rent index also rose another 0.6% in May, the same percentage increase as April. The index for shelter rose 5.5% in the last year, the greatest increase since 1991.

Airline fares significantly increased last month, rising 12.6% after an 18.6% jump in April. The cost rose 37.8% over the year.

While the price of used cars and trucks declined from February through April, prices were back up as the index increased 1% in May, as were prices for new vehicles, which also saw a 1% increase for the month.

The indexes for medical care, apparel, recreation, hospital services, household furnishings, education, tobacco, and alcohol also increased in May. The index for prescription drugs fell 0.1% for the month.

Following the BLS’s release of the May CPI report, all three major U.S. stock indexes fell on Monday, Marketwatch reported, noting the Dow was down over 650 points, S&P 500 was down 3%, and Nasdaq was down 3.6%.

The CPI for June is scheduled to be released on July 13.

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