Is U.S. Inflation Getting Worse?
Pandemic-related categories played a relatively small role in January's CPI increase. But we should be careful before overstating the significance of the change.
On the surface, January’s U.S. inflation numbers were little different than what we’ve gotten used to over the past year. But there were a few developments under the hood that might be worth some concern.
The Consumer Price Index rose by 0.6% on a seasonally-adjusted basis relative to December. That’s almost exactly equal to the average monthly change in the CPI throughout 2021. The drivers of that increase, however, have begun to shift from pandemic-sensitive categories into everything else.
It would be a mistake to over-interpret the data from a single month. Ongoing disruptions from the pandemic both in the U.S. and elsewhere are still generating volatility. There are also good reasons to think that many of the inflationary forces that pushed prices above trend in 2021 are poised to fade. But we should still be watchful of the possibility that things could get out of hand.