Inflation Ticks Higher in April as Rents Keep Rising
Consumer prices rose faster in April, driven by another round of sharp increases in rental prices—and raising ongoing questions about whether a return to 2 percent annual inflation is possible.
Overall, prices rose by 0.4 percent in April, according to data released Wednesday morning by the Department of Labor, after ticking upward by just 0.1 percent in March. The annualized inflation rate fell to 4.9 percent, down slightly from March’s annualized rate of 5.0 percent.
Even though those numbers are a far cry from the 9.1 percent annual rate posted as recently as last June, it’s a worrying sign that inflation seems to have settled into a range that’s significantly higher than it had been for decades. The average inflation rate between 1990 and 2020, for example, was about 2.3 percent.
As it was in March, rental prices are the primary driver of April’s price increases. Overall, the Labor Department’s index for “shelter” prices jumped by 0.4 percent in April. But that category includes a number of factors other than rent, including things like hotel room rates, the prices of which actually declined slightly during April. On their own, rental prices climbed by 0.6 percent during the month, according to the department’s report.
The good news for consumers is that food and energy prices, which largely drove last year’s spike in overall inflation, have returned to more normal territory. Food prices were flat in April and energy prices are down significantly over the past 12 months despite a 0.6 percent increase during April.
Until rental p
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