The hopes that inflation might soon moderate were dashed when the consumer price index for April rose 8.3% compared to last year. The producer price index for April confirmed this further. It rose 11% compared to the same month last year. The PPI measures input costs, or wholesale prices, from the point of view of producers.
The prices of a very few items in the CPI have actually fallen over the past several months. At the top of this list – the price of food service at schools is plunging (down 43% in April compared with last year), as did the price of food service at businesses (down 30%). In each case, the fact that so many Americans work or attend school from home is likely the cause.
The American consumer is caught in a vice. To a large extent, inflation has been caused by upward pressure on oil prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war also affects wheat supplies. COVID-19 infections, which have raced through China’s two largest cities and shuttered factories, have exacerbated global supply chain problems. (These are the metros where families pay the least for food.)
The Federal Reserve has been called upon, for decades, to help steer the economy between inflation and recession. The Fed does so by setting interest rates and buying bonds. Recently, it has been credited with helping drag the U.S. out of The Great Recession and the COVID-19-driven economic downturn. To accomplish these things, the Fed has kept interest rates near historic lows. This, in turn, has helped consumers with major purchases like homes.
The need for Fed action has changed course, almost overnight, however. Rampant inflation has forced the Fed to raise rates, and it may further raise rates by as much as half a percentage four or five times this year. There is even talk about the possibility of a 0.75 point bump. And if rates are raised too aggressively, the economy could fall into a recession. (This is the city with the cheapest groceries in every state.)
To determine the consumer activity that is plunging in price, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the consumer price index for all urban consumers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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