US inflation at 8.6%, highest in 40 years
WASHINGTON (AP) — The costs of gas, food and other necessities jumped in May, raising inflation to a new four-decade high and giving American households no respite from rising costs.
Consumer prices surged 8.6% last month from 12 months earlier, faster than April’s year-over-year surge of 8.3%, the Labor Department said Friday.
On a month-to-month basis, prices jumped 1% from April to May, a steep rise from the 0.3% increase from March to April. Much higher gas prices were to blame for most of that increase.
America’s rampant inflation is imposing severe pressures on families, forcing them to pay much more for food, gas and rent and reducing their ability to afford discretionary items, from haircuts to electronics.
Lower-income and Black and Hispanic Americans, in particular, are struggling because, on average, a larger proportion of their income is consumed by necessities.
At the same time, inflation has shown some signs of moderating, and economists expect it to decline this year, though not by very much. Some analysts have forecast that the inflation gauge the government reported Friday — the consumer price index — may drop below 7% by year’s end. In March, the year-over-year CPI reached 8.5%, the highest such rate since 1982.
High inflation has also forced the Federal Reserve into what will likely be the fastest series of interest rate hikes in three decades. By raising borrowing costs aggressively, the Fed hopes to cool spending and growth enough to curb inflation without tipping the economy into a recession. For the central bank, it will be a difficult balancing act.
Surveys show that Americans see high inflation as the nation’s top problem, and most disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy. Congressional Republicans are hammering Democrats on the issue in the run-up to midterm elections this fall.