Grocery prices continued to rise in April 2022, though at a slower pace than March 2022, with dairy products jumping 2.5 percent in the month – Copyright AFP/File Mohd RASFAN
US inflation slowed in April, according to new data Wednesday, but Americans continue to see their wallets empty faster when they buy groceries and pay the rent.
President Joe Biden has gone on the offensive, blaming the price spike on Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and announcing a series of steps he hopes will ease the pain.
The conflict and the sanctions imposed on Russia have driven up prices around the world for fuel, grain and fertilizer, raising costs for farmers who in turn are forced to raise prices.
Biden, whose popularity has taken a hit amid the highest inflation in four decades, has labeled the recent surge “Putin’s price hike.”
He will visit a farm in Illinois on Wednesday to lay out the White House strategy to help food producers, including boosting domestic fertilizer production amid a nationwide shortage.
The latest inflation data offered some good news, as the consumer price index (CPI) slowed slightly last month, jumping 8.3 percent compared to April 2021, after peaking in March at 8.5 percent, according to the Labor Department.
“While it is heartening to see that annual inflation moderated in April, the fact remains that inflation is unacceptably high,” Biden said in a statement.
“Inflation is a challenge for families across the country and bringing it down is my top economic priority.”
The dip was helped by easing energy costs, as gasoline fell 6.1 percent in April compared to March after the 18.3 percent surge in the previous month.
But gasoline prices at the pump hit a new record on Tuesday, so the news from April may be of little comfort to drivers.
And prices continued to rise last month for a range of goods, including housing, groceries, airline fares and new vehicles, and annual inflation remains at its highest rate since early 1982.
– Groceries more expensive –
CPI rose just 0.3 percent compared to March, after the 1.2 percent surge in the prior month, but excluding volatile food and energy goods, the “core” index last month increased at double the March rate, the report said.
A large driver was food at home, which jumped 10.8 percent over the last 12 months — the largest annual increase since November 1980, according to the report.
The index for meat, poultry, fish and eggs surged 14.3 percent in the biggest gain since May 1979.
Americans saw big increases in the month for dairy and cereal products, even as fruit and vegetable costs fell last month.
Even with the decline in gasoline, energy costs have surged 30.3 percent over the past 12 months, with gasoline up 43.6 percent compared to a year ago.
Economists expect inflation to continue to slow gradually, but see no sign the Federal Reserve will ease up on what it said will be rapid interest rate increases to try to tamp down the price pressures and cool demand.
The Fed last week announced its largest rate hike since 2000, and signaled similar increases were likely in coming months.
Despite the “modest reprieve” in the data suggesting inflation peaked in March, “the renewed rise in gasoline prices towards a record $4.50 nationally and increase in diesel prices signals that there is still upward risk to the inflation outlook,” Kathy Bostjancic of Oxford Economics said in an analysis.
“Further, the Covid-related China lockdowns and the continued Russia-Ukraine war places further stress on already strained supply chains.”