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Rising gasoline and shelter costs sent the Bureau of Labor Statistics's (BLS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) higher during August.

The latest government tally shows the CPI was up 0.4% last month, and 1.9% on a year-over-year basis.

Hurricane Harvey had a very small effect on survey response rates, according to DOL, with price collection late in the month disrupted in just two of the 87 collection areas.

Soaring gasoline prices

Energy costs jumped 2.8%, the largest monthly increase since January. The price of gasoline surged 6.3% after holding steady in July, while natural gas fell 0.5% on top of the previous month's 2.3% decline. Electricity was unchanged from the month prior.

Over the past 12 months, energy prices have risen 6.4%, with gasoline up 10.4%, natural gas gaining 5.4%, and electricity advancing 2.3%.

Food prices moderate

Food prices inched up just 0.1% in August, with the “food at home” category -- groceries -- down 0.2%. Five of the six major grocery store food group indexes fell, with dairy & related products and nonalcoholic beverages both down 0.4%. Additionally, meats, poultry, fish, & eggs, and fruits & vegetables both dropped 0.2%, while the “other food” category was down 0.1%. The only major grocery store food group to rise -- cereal & bakery products -- was up 0.3%.

For the year ended in August, grocery prices are up 0.3%.

The “food away for home,” or restaurant prices, rose 0.3% last month, and are up 2.2% over the last year. Overall, food costs for the past 12 months have risen 1.1%.

Core inflation

Prices for all items excluding the volatile food and energy the so-called “core rate” of inflation rose 0.2% in August, with housing the main contributor with a rise of 0.5%. Other increases came in motor vehicle insurance, recreation, medical care, clothing, alcoholic beverages, and household furnishings & operations.

On the other hand, airline fares, used cars & trucks, tobacco, education, wireless telephone services, and personal care all declined.

New vehicle prices were unchanged.

Over the past 12 months, the core rate of inflation is up 1.7%.

The complete report is available on the BLS website.

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Jobless claims

There was a sizable drop last week in first-time applications for state unemployment benefits.

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), initial jobless claims were down by 14,000 in the week ending September 9 -- a week affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma -- to a seasonally adjusted 284,000. Claims soared by 62,000 the week before.

The four-week moving average totaled 263,250, the highest level since August 13, 2016, an increase of 13,000 from the previous week.

Many economists consider the four-week moving average a more accurate gauge of the labor market due to it's relative lack of volatility.

The complete report is available on the DOL website.


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