After cooling in March, inflation heated up in April

Photo (c) Alex L. - Getty Images

The costs of shelter, used cars and gasoline led the increase

The cost of living was significantly higher in April than it was in March. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.4% last month after gaining only 0.1% in the previous month.

Consumers paid more for shelter, gasoline, and used cars and trucks. Those increases more than offset the declines in some other sectors.

Areas where consumers paid more

  • Used cars - up 4.4%

  • Energy - 0.6%

  • Medical care commodities - up 0.4%

  • Shelter - up 0.4%

  • Restaurants - up 0.4%

  • Gasoline - up 0.3%

  • Apparel - up 0.3%

Areas where consumers paid less

  • Natural gas - down 4.9%

  • Fuel oil - down 4.5%

  • Electricity - down 1.7%

  • New cars - down 0.2%

  • Transportation - down 0.2%

  • Groceries - down 0.2%

With the winter heating season pretty much over, consumers saw big drops in natural gas and heating oil prices. Food costs, one of the heavier burdens for consumers over the last few months, continued to moderate.

The food index was unchanged in April, with higher menu prices at restaurants but lower prices at the supermarket. When it was averaged out, food costs were flat last month.

Four of the six major grocery store food group indexes decreased over the month. The index for fruits and vegetables fell 0.5% while the index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs declined 0.3%.

The dairy and related products index decreased by 0.7% percent in April as the milk index fell 2.0%, the largest decline in that index since February 2015.

Over the last 12 months, the nation’s inflation rate is 4.9%. That’s down from June’s peak of 9% and closer to the Federal Reserve’s goal of 2%.

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