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US Inflation Surges Again In November, Highest In 39 Years

Only low-wage workers seeing pay rise faster than rate of inflation

Inflation shot up again in November as prices increased at their highest rate since the 1980s, as the costs for housing grew at a record pace and prices for food and energy remain high.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index showed that the prices of goods and services in the U.S. economy rose 0.8 percent in November, marking another consecutive month inflation has grown.

The Consumer Price Index also jumped 0.9 percent in October and the Dec. 10 release of the price index showed that inflation has grown 6.8 percent over the year. The year-over-year rise in inflation is the largest since the July 1982 report.

With prices for consumer goods and services at 6.3 percent higher in November 2021 than the previous year, the Consumer Price Index released Dec. 3 showed the biggest yearly growth in inflation since 1982. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

As inflation continues to grow, it’s having a disproportionate impact on low-wage earners, several economists noted.

Some of November’s biggest increases came in shelter costs, used cars and trucks, new vehicles, household furnishings, apparel and airline fares. Prices for motor vehicle insurance, recreation, and communication all dropped in November.

Housing prices have been particularly high and helping push up inflation numbers, noted Charlie Biello, founder and CEO of Compound Capital Advisors.

“The shelter component is the biggest part of CPI at 33 percent of the index and is being wildly understated with rents up 17.7 percent over the last year and home prices up nearly 20 percent,” Biello wrote on Twitter, adding that the year-over-year rise in rents and home prices is the largest ever recorded.

Snack makers Kraft Heinz and Mondelez announced that they will be raising prices for retail customers on several of their products, including Kraft cheese, Mac & Cheese, Jell-O, Bagel Bites, Cool Whip, Toblerone, Sour Patch Kids and other items starting next year. They also said that if the retail customers do not pay, the price hike will be passed on to the public. Food and consumer product manufacturers are dealing with higher costs due to labor, raw materials, transportation and other expenses like most U.S. companies. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Harvard University Economics Professor Jason Furman agreed that inflation was rising rapidly, even taking into account price shifts associated with the pandemic. The November inflation report continues a trend of rising inflation, with prices rising more than 0.5 percent from March through July.

“Stripping out some volatile pandemic items from the core, the underlying trend is still quite high and broadly trending up,” Furman wrote on Twitter.

Following a rise of 0.9 percent in October, prices in November 2021 again rose 0.8 percent, the seventh month in the last year that consumer prices have risen 0.5 percent or more, the Dec. 3 Consumer Price Index showed. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Furman wrote that he expected some prices to fall in upcoming months, especially gasoline, which was 6.1 percent higher in November, and used cars, which were 2.5 percent more expensive for the month. He put the latest inflation numbers against recent reports on wages, which have also been rising.

Real wages, which take inflation into account, were down 1 percent since February 2020, Furman wrote, which is 2.9 percent below pre-pandemic trends. However, the trends weren’t bad for all classes of workers.

“Much better for lower-wage workers. The bottom quarter of workers have seen wage gains outpace inflation but by less than before. The second quartile had been positive but has now turned negative,” Furman wrote following the Dec. 10 report. The highest 50 percent of wage earners all saw inflation overtake wage gains, he said.

In its November 2021 jobs report, released on Dec. 3, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that hourly wages rose an average of eight cents during the month, bringing the average to $31.03, a 4.6 percent jump from last year.

The Peterson Institute of International Economics said that wage growth was even stronger than pre-pandemic forecasts, outpacing trends by 1.4 percent.

Another thorny issue for the economy is rising energy prices.

Gasoline saw the highest gains of any goods or product in November, rising 58 percent. Rental cars are up 37 percent, used cars are up 31 percent, hotels prices were 26 percent higher and utilities were up 25 percent Food prices also shot up, with steaks jumping 25 percent in price in November, bacon rising 21 percent and pork up 17 percent.

Up one-third from last year, energy prices are among the biggest sources of inflation, the Dec. 3 Consumer Price Index showed. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Of the 6.8 percent total growth in inflation over the last year, 2 percent can be attributed to higher energy prices, namely for gasoline, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, said that prices at the pump are up nearly 60 percent from a year ago, and there are few options to attack inflation in this sector.

“These are the prices that worry consumers most but the Federal Reserve is limited in reducing,” Swonk wrote on Twitter.

Amazon workers make deliveries on Dec. 6, 2021, in New York City. As Americans continue to shop and order goods online at ever greater number, shipping costs at FedEx, UPS and USPS are rising as companies struggle to meet demand. Inflation and higher operating costs are adding to the rising prices. A recent estimate from LateShipment.com also predicted that anywhere between 16% to 20% of packages shipped with UPS and FedEx will fail to arrive on time during the 2021 holiday season. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The latest inflation numbers come days before the Federal Reserve Board of Governors is set to meet and consider how to end measures that helped shore up U.S. markets during the pandemic lockdowns, but are also likely contributing to U.S. inflation.

“The Fed’s goal is to see inflation come down to levels that are insignificant, which will require them to more forcefully reign in demand,” Swonk wrote on Twitter ahead of the Dec. 14-15 meeting of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Edited by Bryan Wilkes and Kristen Butler

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