Inflation Spikes To 39-Year High As Prices Soar in November

Inflation Spikes To 39-Year High As Prices Soar in November

Inflation surging at fastest pace in nearly 4 decades

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
December 10, 2021

Inflation jumped 6.8 percent in November, hitting numbers not seen in nearly four decades, underscoring the persistently elevated inflationary pressures continuing to squeeze Americans and businesses nationwide.

The Consumer Price Index data — which measures what consumers pay for goods and services released Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed prices rose annually by 6.8% in November from a year earlier. It's the fastest annual increase reading of the Labor Department's CPI since 1982.

November's annual CPI number also surpassed October's 6.2% year-over-year increase, which was the fastest gain in 31 years. It matched consensus economists surveyed by Dow Jones, who estimated a 6.7% year-over-year spike in November.

The so-called core CPI, which strips out food and energy indexes, climbed 4.9% in November from the same time last year. That was a sharper increase from October's 4.6% and the highest rate since June 1991.

On a month-over-month basis, the CPI rose 0.8% in November, coming in ahead of the 0.7% rise anticipated by economists, but were just a tick less than the 0.9% increase seen in October. Excluding food and energy prices, the month-over-month CPI rose 0.5%, matching estimates and coming down by just a tick compared to October's 0.6% increase.

It's the sixth straight month in which inflation has surged more than 5 percent annually under President Biden.

Screenshot Bureau of Labor CPI Data

Price increases came from familiar culprits as several of those categories saw significant price increases. The Labor Department, in its release, said that it saw "broad increases" across "most" indexes of goods and the increases for the food and energy components were the fastest 12-month gains in at least 13 years.

Price increases in gasoline, shelter, food, and both new and used vehicles continued to remain some of the largest contributors to the inflation burst data. According to the data, the food index increased 0.7% in November after rising 0.9% in both September and October. Over the past 12 months, food prices within this group index increased 6.1% over the 12-month period.

"Food at home," namely groceries index, increased 0.8% in November as all six major grocery store food group indexes rose. It marks the third consecutive month that all six group prices indexed increased sharply. Annually, the food at home index rose 6.4%, the largest 12-month increase since December 2008.

Inflation Chart

Among the highest food price increase were under the meat category, which saw an increase of 16% compared to a year ago, with beef increasing nearly 21%, pork almost 17%, steak nearly 25%, and bacon 21%. Fruits and vegetables remained the same at 4% annually from last month. "Food away from home," namely restaurants, showed prices climbed 5.8 percent, the biggest rise since January 1982.

Energy prices have risen 3.5% since last month's increase of 4.8%. Annually, all major energy component indexes increased sharply, with energy surging 33.3% since November 2020. Gasoline alone jumped 58.1% over the year ending in November, the largest jump since April 1980. The index for natural gas rose 25.1% over the last 12 months, and the electricity index rose 6.5%.

Another major contributor to the hot inflation data, which comprise about one-third of the CPI data, was used cars and trucks, as prices are up 31.4% this month, following a 2.5% increase last month. New vehicles rose 11.1% over the past 12 months. Shelter costs increased 3.8% in one year, the highest since 2007 as the housing crisis accelerated.

Apparel costs also were notably higher for the month, rising 1.3% for the month and 5% for the year, ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Biden has consistently downplayed the significance of surging inflation, claiming the supply chain crisis that his White House is apparently making progress will help ease prices with more goods on the shelves. Despite acknowledging the frightening high inflation numbers, Biden continues to repeat a false claim that has been debunked by many economists that passing his $1.75 trillion "Build Back Better" social spending plan would help lower costs.

"The challenge of prices underscores the importance that Congress move without delay to pass my Build Back Better plan, which lowers how much families pay for health care, prescription drugs, child care, and more. American families should not have to wait to get relief on the cost of prescription drugs like insulin, or see their childcare costs cut by more than half," Biden said in a statement following the CPI release.

But Americans are saying otherwise, as inflation has emerged as a top political concern for voters ahead of the 2022 midterms. Recent polling has shown that most Americans state that inflation is financially squeezing them from the rising prices in all categories, and they fault Biden for the problem.

Republicans criticized the high inflation numbers to hammer Biden's presidency, faulting Biden's administration's policies as the culprit and warning against the passage of the president's sprawling social welfare spending plan will only exacerbate inflation further.

"Every month this year, we've watched inflation get worse, prices surge higher, and Joe Biden does absolutely nothing to fix it. First, he denied there was a problem, then his White House tried to write this off as just a 'high-class problem,' and now he's trying to lie to and mislead American families by saying the plain data doesn't tell the full story," Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said in a statement.

"IT'S ALL A LIE. To make matters worse, Democrats keep trying to force through their trillion-dollar tax-and-spend agenda that will only throw gasoline on Biden's inflation fire," Scott added.

Despite inflation hitting a 39-year high, Wall Street reacted positively to the report, with all three stock indexes opening higher. The Federal Reserve will hold its monthly policy meeting next week at which it may provide more details about how it plans to wind down its bond-buying program and when it plans to begin raising interest rates.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a political reporter for The Floridian covering Congress, the White House and Congressional elections.

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