Inflation slowed again in February thanks to falling energy prices

Photo (c) Alexsl - Getty Images

But food and shelter costs continue to rise

Consumers paid more for food and shelter last month but the cost of heating homes fell sharply. The Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 0.4% after a 0.5% rise in January.

Natural gas prices plunged 8% last month but are still 14% higher than 12 months ago. The cost of fuel oil dropped 7.9% while remaining 9.2% higher than a year ago.

The cost of electricity rose last month, but not by much. Electric bills were 0.5% higher than in January but consumers are paying 12.9% more for electricity than in February 2022.

Motorists also saw another small increase in prices at the pump. The cost of gasoline was up 1% over January but compared to 12 months ago, gas prices were down 1.2%.

Food costs rose 0.4% in February, perhaps causing consumers the most inflationary pain. It was still cheaper to eat at home last month. The price of food purchased at a store and consumed at home rose 0.3% while food consumed at bars, restaurants and convenience stores rose 0.4%. Overall food costs were 9.5% higher than a year ago.

High cost of shelter

There was also little relief for people renting an apartment or buying a home. Shelter costs rose 0.8%, slightly more than in January. 

Used car prices continued to fall last month, registering a 2.8% decline, and were 13% cheaper than a year ago. New vehicle prices continued to rise as dealers continued to mark up cars and trucks over the sticker price.

Taking everything into consideration, consumer prices are 6% higher than they were a year ago, well off their peak last June.

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