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U.S. inflation continues to soar, hitting 9.1% in June

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Lisa Craig, of Sandy, shops for her family of four at Reams in Sandy, Utah.

Lisa Craig, of Sandy, shops for her family of four at Reams in Sandy on Thursday, July 7, 2022. U.S. inflation is showing no signs of slowing down as the costs of goods and services rose 9.1% in June, the highest uptick since 1981 according to the latest U.S. Department of Labor report released Wednesday.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

U.S. inflation is showing no signs of slowing down as the costs of goods and services rose 9.1% in June, the highest uptick since 1981 according to the latest U.S. Department of Labor report released Wednesday.

The Consumer Price Index Summary for June found continued, steep price increases across most categories with basic necessities — food, shelter and gasoline — being the largest contributors. The energy index rose 7.5% over the month and contributed nearly half of the total increase, with the gasoline index rising 11.2%. The food index rose 1.0% in June, as did groceries.

Mountain West states, which include Utah, continue to have some of the highest regional inflation in the country with the average prices of goods and services rising 9.9% in June, up from 9.4% in May.

U.S. consumers are now paying for groceries that are up 10.4% over last year, gas that’s up nearly 60% over 2021 and shelter expenses that have risen 5.6% since June 2021.

Prices of new and used vehicles also continue to surge, up 11.4% and 7.1%, respectively, over the past year.

The June data follows a May report that saw consumer prices on goods and services rise by an average 8.6% across the country, the highest year-over-year increase since 1981.

The ongoing price increases underscore the brutal impact that inflation has inflicted on many families, with the costs of necessities, in particular, rising much faster than average incomes. Lower-income and Black and Hispanic Americans have been hit especially hard, because a disproportionate share of their income goes toward such essentials as housing, transportation and food.

And while the national average price of gas has declined over the past several weeks since reaching the $5 per gallon mark nationally last month, Utah drivers have continued to encounter record-high prices at their local pumps.

On Wednesday, AAA reported the average U.S. price for a gallon of regular is now $4.63 per gallon and down from a record $5.02 per gallon in mid-June. In Utah, the average price per gallon on Wednesday came in at $5.15, down just 11 cents from the state’s all-time-high of $5.26 set on July 1.

And, data gathered in a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, conducted June 16-29 of 808 registered voters by Dan Jones & Associates found Utahns are feeling the extra cost of gasoline in ways that are leading to changes in their summer travel itineraries.

When asked by pollsters how current gas prices are impacting their travel plans this summer, 47% of respondents said they are likely going to take fewer trips, 31% said that shorter trips were in order, 17% said they were likely to postpone planned trips and 11% said they would likely flat-out cancel summer travel.

And an overwhelming majority of respondents, 88% said they are concerned the country could head into an economic recession in the coming year, while 10% said they were not concerned and 2% didn’t have an opinion.

The polling data comes with a plus or minus 3.45% margin of error.

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Phil Dean, senior economist with the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, reviewed the poll findings and said responses from Utah consumers line up with the kinds of behavior changes economists expect to see amid prices for consumer goods and services that have shot up at record pace over the past few months.

“Not surprisingly, consumers of all backgrounds remain very frustrated about high inflation. Indeed, anyone younger than 40 has not seen rates this high in their lifetime,” Dean said in a statement last week. “This high inflation includes many everyday items, including $5 per-gallon gasoline and elevated food prices. Persistent high prices force consumers to reorient their short-term thinking about today’s purchases and wages and sow seeds of uncertainty about the long-term future.”

While some economists are predicting the U.S. is verging on a recessionary period, Dean says he still holds out some optimism that it can be avoided and noted there are some signs that price pressures are easing.

Dean is also bullish, with some caveats, about the ability of the state’s overall economy to weather a further downturn, should one be in the offing.

“Utah remains very well situated from an economic standpoint,” he said. “We’re not an island and national and global economic conditions do impact us. But, we still have a lot of growth potential in front of us and a young well-educated population, relative to many places. And, we have lower cost of doing business.

“My biggest concern, short and long term about the trajectory of our state economy is housing affordability, and making sure we get that taken care of.”

Contributing: Associated Press