WASHINGTON (AP) — Inflation soared over the past year at its highest rate in four decades, hammering American 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 a year earlier, the steepest year-over-year increase since February 1982. The acceleration of prices ranged across the economy, from food and furniture to apartment rents, airline fares 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 rose 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.
Wages are rising at the fastest pace in at least 20 years, which can pressure companies to raise prices to cover higher labor costs. Ports and warehouses are overwhelmed, with hundreds of workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s busiest, out sick last month. Many products and parts remain in short supply as a result.