Inflation Surges to New Four-Decade High of 8.5 Percent in March

Year-over-year inflation saw yet another precipitous increase in March according to data released by the Department of Labor on Tuesday.

The Consumer Price Index, a major inflation gauge measuring the cost of the average household basket of goods, came in at 8.5 percent over the 12-month period ending in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. That marks the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981.

The CPI surged 1.2 percent in March alone, on a seasonally adjusted basis, after going up by 0.8 percent in February. Like last month, increases in the price of gasoline, housing, and food were largely responsible for the spike. Gasoline prices skyrocketed by 18.3 percent in March after seeing a 6.6 percent increase in February, accounting for over half of the total monthly increase in CPI. The Biden administration has argued that the inflation numbers can in large part be attributed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but while prices have seen a steep increase since that conflict began, they had already been on the rise for months.

The Core CPI — excluding food and energy, which tend to be volatile components that can exaggerate the effects of inflation — rose 0.3 percent, a small rate decrease from the 0.5 percent rise in February. Housing fueled most of the Core CPI increase, with airline fares, household furnishings and operations, medical care, and motor vehicle insurance also contributing.

Persistent supply and demand imbalances left over from the pandemic, as well as many months of large fiscal and monetary injections, fueled inflationary pressures in 2020 and 2021 before the war in Ukraine and western countries’ sanctions retaliation against Russia exacerbated them. The Biden administration has been criticized by Republicans for intentionally impeding domestic energy production, starting with the discontinuation of the Keystone Pipeline XL project as one of the president’s first matters of business, leaving the U.S. dependent on quasi-dictatorships overseas for oil and gas.

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