Inflation high and rising in March

As measured by the Consumer Price Index, inflation remained high in March 2022, and the rate accelerated.

I’ve included charts from my interactive visualization of Consumer Price Index data and news stories. To learn more about this data and access my interactive visualization of all CPI data, click here.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that gathers this data, summarized the findings:

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 1.2 percent in March on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.8 percent in February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 8.5 percent before seasonal adjustment.

Increases in the indexes for gasoline, shelter, and food were the largest contributors to the seasonally adjusted all items increase. The gasoline index rose 18.3 percent in March and accounted for over half of the all items monthly increase; other energy component indexes also increased. The food index rose 1.0 percent and the food at home index rose 1.5 percent.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3 percent in March following a 0.5-percent increase the prior month. The shelter index was by far the biggest factor in the increase, with a broad set of other indexes also contributing, including those for airline fares, household furnishings and operations, medical care, and motor vehicle insurance. In contrast, the index for used cars and trucks fell 3.8 percent over the month.

The all items index continued to accelerate, rising 8.5 percent for the 12 months ending March, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981. The all items less food and energy index rose 6.5 percent, the largest 12-month change since the period ending August 1982. The energy index rose 32.0 percent over the last year, and the food index increased 8.8 percent, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending May 1981.

This report, along past reports, may be found in this BLS archive.

The following examples from my visualization illustrate (click for larger versions).

Of note, inflation varies widely among products and services. The following tables hold annual price changes for items at two levels of detail. Table 2a holds broad categories, including the all items rate of 8.56 percent. Transportation had the largest increase, while medical care was much lower at 2.86 percent. Looking at Table 2b, we see the data subdivided in final detail. It’s easy to see what we know from experience: The price of motor fuel has increased by 48.16 percent over the year, which drives the rise in transportation prices.

Inflation is not the same everywhere. The following chart shows the U.S. city average and the rates for large and medium Midwestern cities.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

Suppliers raised prices sharply last month, a sign inflation continues to percolate through the U.S. economy.

The Labor Department on Wednesday said the producer-price index, which generally reflects supply conditions in the economy, increased a seasonally adjusted 1.4% in March from the prior month, a pickup from an upwardly revised 0.9% gain in February.

Producer prices rose 11.2% on a 12-month basis, compared with an upwardly revised 10.3% increase in February. That marked the fourth consecutive month with a double-digit gain and was the highest since records began in 2010. See Supplier Prices Rose Sharply in March, Keeping Upward Pressure on U.S. Inflation.

CNN reported:

America’s inflation problem didn’t abate in March. Prices kept creeping up, hitting a fresh 40-year high, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed Tuesday.

The Consumer Price Index rose 8.5% for the year ended in March, not adjusted for seasonal swings. That outpaced February’s elevated reading of 7.9% and marked a level not seen since December 1981 when the CPI stood at 8.9%. Tuesday’s March data was also slightly higher than the 8.4% economists had predicted.

Most of the March increase was driven by a jump in gasoline and food prices, which rose as the Ukraine conflict threw global commodities markets for a loop, as well as an upswing in housing costs.

Last month alone, US gas prices rose by more than 18%. Year-over-year, the price of gas soared by 48%.

Stripping out the more volatile food and energy categories, prices rose 6.5% over the 12-month period ended in March — the biggest jump since August 1982. See Consumer price inflation hit a new 40-year high in March.

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