, 2022-10-13 09:31:19,
Inflation was a bit hotter than expected in September, with monthly gains fueled primarily by housing, food and medical care, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday.
Inflation measures how quickly the prices consumers pay for a broad range of goods and services are rising.
The consumer price index, a key inflation barometer, jumped by 8.2% in September relative to a year earlier. Economists had expected an 8.1% annual increase. Basically, a basket of goods that cost $100 a year ago cost $108.20 today.
The positive news: September’s annual increase was smaller than the 8.3% rise in August. The bad: Inflation is still high across many consumer categories, said Yiming Ma, an assistant professor of business at Columbia University.
“On paper, [inflation] has come down,” Ma said. “The elephant in the room is price levels are still increasing at an extremely high rate.”
“The big picture is that inflation is high everywhere,” she added. “I think consumers will continue to feel it.”
Food prices have been among the largest contributing categories to inflation in recent months.
The “food at home” index — or grocery prices — jumped 13% in September versus the same time a year ago. That’s a slight decline from 13.5% in August, which was the largest 12-month increase in over 40 years, since March 1979.
Within that category, certain items have seen prices rise sharply over the past year, such as butter and margarine (up 32.2%), eggs (30.5%) and flour (24.2%).
Gasoline prices were the primary irritant for many American households earlier this year, when national averages briefly topped $5 a gallon, but food has now “taken that starring role,” said Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst at Bankrate.
Even so, energy prices have been another major inflation contributor in the past year. The category — which includes gasoline, fuel oil, electricity and other items — is up 19.8%.
Gasoline prices have retreated from summer highs, and currently sit at an average $3.91 per gallon nationwide, per AAA. But rates are expected to rise after a bloc of big oil producers announced last week that they plan to cut oil output.
“Core” inflation — a measure that strips out food and energy costs, which can be…
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