At the conclusion of its two-day meeting on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced another jumbo .75% increase to its benchmark lending rate, marking the fourth straight increase of that size and sixth overall interest rate boost this year.

The aggressive strategy is aiming to quell inflation that has been running at or near 40-year highs for most of the past year. The rate hikes aim to raise the cost of debt for businesses and consumers which should, theoretically, reduce the amount of spending and overall economic activity, a shift in dynamics that typically brings inflation rates down. But so far, consumer spending has remained robust and the U.S. labor market has continued to run red hot, with unfilled jobs far outnumbering the number of available workers to fill them.

Why did the Fed raise interest rates again?

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that at some point it will be appropriate to slow the rate of interest rate increases but “we still have some ways to go” and did not signal whether the next interest boost, expected in December, would be a continuation of the .75% increases or a lower increment.

But in a statement released following the policy meeting, the Fed suggested that it might soon shift to a more deliberate pace of rate increases, per The Associated Press. It said that in coming months it would consider the cumulative impact of its large rate hikes on the economy. It noted that its rate hikes take time to fully affect growth and inflation.

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Inflation marches on

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows the consumer price index rose 0.4% in September and is up 8.2% from a year ago.

Mountain West states, including Utah, continued to see the highest regional inflation in the country in September, coming in at 9.6% up year over year.

Cost increases in shelter, food and medical care were the largest contributors to the monthly uptick, according to the Department of Labor.

While those costs were partly offset by a 4.9% decline in gas prices, food prices are continuing to rise, up 0.8% from the month before. Energy prices fell 2.1% over the month along with gas prices, but natural gas and electricity costs increased. Year over year, energy prices increased 19.8% and food was up 11.2%.

Where the Fed hikes are really being felt

The U.S. real estate market has slowed dramatically in the face of mortgage rates that have more than doubled in the last year and are now at an average 7.08%, according to the latest data from Freddie Mac.

Blerina Uruci, an economist at T. Rowe Price, suggested that falling home sales are “the canary in the coal mine” that demonstrate that the Fed’s rate hikes are weakening a highly interest-rate sensitive sector like housing, per The Associated Press. Uruci noted, though, that the Fed’s hikes haven’t yet meaningfully slowed much of the rest of the economy, particularly the job market or consumer demand.

“So long as those two components remain strong,” she said, the Fed’s policymakers “cannot count on inflation coming down” close to their 2% target within the next two years.

Economic worries are running high

A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll conducted in October found a whopping 93% of Utahns say they’re concerned about inflation, while only 6% say they’re not concerned.

More specifically, 64% said they’re “very concerned,” 29% said they’re “somewhat concerned,” 5% said they’re “not very concerned” and only 1% said they’re “not at all concerned.”

The number of Utahns citing inflation as a top worry has been on the rise since a July 2021 Deseret News poll that found 85% of Utahns were very or somewhat concerned about inflation and another check-in in February 2022 when 93% of survey participants registered concerns about the rising costs of goods and services.

October’s reading is only slightly down from September’s poll, which found 96% of Utahns said they were very or somewhat concerned about inflation and 4% were not very or not at all concerned.