Sharp increases in the cost of food, housing and other basic necessities kept inflation raging at near a double-digit pace last month and pushed consumer prices to a new milestone - twice their average level in 1967 - the government reported yesterday.
The labor Department's consumer price index jumped another 0.8 percent in October after a brief respite in late summer. Supermarket prices soared by 0.9 percent.
In the Washington area, food prices rose just 0.3 percent in October, the Labor Department said. (Details on page A4).
The increase brought the overall consumer price index to 200.9 percent of its 1967 average, meaning it took almost $201 to buy the same goods and services at retail that cost $100 just 11 years ago. The value of the dollar now is 49.8 cents.
At the same time, the continuing inflation further eroded the purchasing power of workers. Real spendable earnings of a family of four fell 0.1 percent in October, the third monthly decline in a row.
The intensity of the October price surge, which came despite an earlier easing in wholesale prices, marked a setback for the Carter administration, which has been hoping to trim inflation to between 6 and 6.5 percent next year.
Alfred E. Kahn, President Carter's new anti-inflation czar, termed the October figures "godawful." And White House press secretary Jody Powell said the report "confirms . . . we have a very stubborn inflation problem to deal with."
Moreover, several key officials said privately they expect inflation to continue this way until the middle or end of next year. Despite the administration's official optimism, few believe Carter can meet his goal.
Yesterday's report prompted AFL-CIO President George Meany to renew his call for mandatory, across-the-board, wage-price controls to replace the "voluntary" guidelines program Carter put in force last month.
Meany said in a statement it was "obvious that speeches and threats not based on legislative authority will not cure inflation" He said the average family's wages "just cannot keep up with the price tag on essentials."
By far the most dramatic increase last month was in retail grocery prices, which shot up a full 0.9 percent after three months of relatively small price boosts. Sharp rises in food prices spurred inflation last spring.
Meat prices rose dramatically as the threat of coming shortages began to reverse ecent declines. Pork prices jumped 3.7 percent last month, while beef prices climbed 1.6 percent. Poultry prices rose 2.5 percent.
But the price increases weren't limited to food:
The cost of housing rose 1 percent in October, as rent, household furnishings and fuel prices all posted far larges increases than in previous months. Utility charges also rose sharply.
Medical costs soared 1.1 percent, reflecting sizable increases both in services and commodities. The cost of professional services, primarily doctors' fees, jumped 0.9 percent, up from a 0.6 percent rise in September.
Transportation costs slowed somewhat, rising 0.4 percent in October compared with 0.6 percent in September. But gasoline prices soared 1.4 percent, continuing the big increases posted in the past three months.
Clothing prices eased slightly, climbing 0.4 percent compared with 0.6 percent in September, but footwear prices leaped 1.1 percent. And prices of toys, sporting goods and other entertainment items jumped 0.8 percent.
The overall October rise held the pace of inflation at near double-digit levels. Labor Department analysts said if yesterday's figures were continued for a full year, inflation would end up at 9.4 percent.
During the first 10 months of this year, inflation has risen by 7.8 percent. Most economists believe the rate for the year will be about 8 percent and that it will moderate only slightly in 1979.
The purchasing power of the average rank-and-file production worker now stands 3.6 percent below the level of a year ago. Workers' purchasing power has been below comparable 1977 levels for the past five months.
Yesterday's increase will result in a 19-cent-an-hour cost of living raise for some 820,000 hourly workers employed by the big three auto makers, whose contracts are tied to the October-to-October price levels.