Inflation Just Hit a 40-Year High, but Some Essentials Are Finally Getting Cheaper

·2 min read
Money; Getty Images
Money; Getty Images

Consumer prices rose 7% over the past year — the highest inflation rate in nearly four decades. At the same time, though, certain everyday purchases like gas, pork, steak and tomatoes finally began to get cheaper last month.

New data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that some categories saw particularly large spikes in December compared to a year earlier. Energy prices rose 29%, and prices for used cars and trucks rose 37% over a 12-month span, thanks to pandemic-induced shortages and supply chain snags.

On a monthly basis, prices ticked up 0.5% overall between November and December, a continuation of a long upward trend in 2021, but a smaller gain than the 0.8% spike previous month.

The BLS said rising prices for shelter (including rent prices and homeowner costs), used cars and trucks, and food were the biggest contributors to the growth in overall prices on a monthly basis. Prices in the shelter category rose 0.4% between November and December, while food prices jumped 0.5%. Prices for new cars nudged up 1% for the month, and used car prices increased a steep 3.5%, after rising 2.5% in each of the two preceding months.

Grocery prices rose 6.5% over the year ending in December, driven by a 12.5% spike in meat, poultry, fish and egg prices. The report noted that the prices in the “food at home” category had previously risen just 1.5% per year for the past decade.

But even as consumer prices in general continue to climb, and are up significantly year over year, some goods are actually — finally — getting cheaper.

Meat prices, which have been soaring for months, fell 0.9% between November and December. Pork products including roasts and ribs saw a decline of 3.3% on the month, while beef steaks were down 2.6%. Some produce prices fell too, including oranges (down 1.1%) and tomatoes (down 4.6%). Prices for white bread fell 0.5% during the month.

The price of gasoline also ticked down by half a percent last month, but that’s not cause for celebration just yet. Gas prices rose again slightly in January and are still up roughly 50% on a yearly basis, the BLS said.

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