Continued sharp increases in energy prices pushed the consumer price index up another 1 percent in June, marking the sixth consecutive month that inflation has exceeded a double-digit annual rate, the government reported yesterday.
The increase brought inflation for the first half of this year to an annual rate of 13.2 percent, the fastest pace for any six-month period since the Korean War days in 1951. During the last year, prices have risen 10.9 percent.
The June rise all but obscured a marked slowdown in food prices, which edged up 0.2 percent over the month following a steep 0.7 percent rise in May. Grocery store prices nationally declined 0.1 percent.
In Washington, however, supermarket prices soared a sharp 1.1 percent, following a 1.2 percent jump in May. Officials cited the impact of the recent truckers' strike as contributing to the rise.
The sharp rise in prices cut further into workers' pruchasing power. The Labor Department's index of average hourly earnings adjusted for inflation fell 0.6 percent in June to a level 3.1 percent below that of a year ago.
The figures marked a setback for the Carter administration, which had hoped to see some improvement in the inflation rate beginning last month. The White House still is predicting the price surge will ebb later this year.
At the White House, presidential press secretary Jody Powell said the June figures, while "far from acceptable, do indicate that the trend is in the right direction." He said this particularly was true of food prices.
Powell also said the figures suggest that the administration's voluntary wage and price guidelines program is having an impact on prices. He said that while overall prices rose in June at an annual rate of 12.5 percent, the prices of items that are covered by the guidelines rose at an annual rate of 4.5 percent.
Such necessities as food, fuel and housing are exempt from the guidelines.
Alfred E. Kahn, President Carter's chief anti-inflation adviser, insisted yesterday that except for the steep rise in energy prices, the underlying inflation rate is showing "remarkable stability."
Kahn also confirmed that the administration may try to resurrect its once-rejected "real wage insurance" plan, which would provide workers with a tax credit if inflation exceeded Carter's wage guideline.
The June figures on prices mean that more than 3 million retired federal workers and military personnel - including 100,000 in the Washington area - will receive a 6.9 percent cost-of-living increase Sept. 1.
The computation, made every year at this time, is based on a companion index that measures the rise in consumer prices for urban wage earners and clerical workers. The index rose 11.1 percent for the 12 months ending in June.
The checks to retired federal workers are expected to be mailed before Oct. 1.
The rise in energy prices accounted for between four-tenths and half of the 1 percent jump in the overall consumer price index. The increase reflected a series of price hikes by the oil producers' cartel.
Gasoline prices leaped 5.6 percent in June, while prices of home heating oil and other fuels rose 8.6 percent. Over the past six months, gasoline prices at retail have risen at a 60.8 percent annual rate.
The index also was pushed up by continuing increases in home mortgage interest rates. Other nonfood prices turned in a mixed performance. Retail prices of apparel declined slightly in June.
The decline in food prices nationally came primarily as a result of a drop in prices of meats, poultry, fish and eggs. Beef prices plunged 1.3 percent in June, reversing a steady eight-momth climb.
However, Howard Hjort, the Agriculture Department's chief economist, said further declines still were being offset by increases in middlemen's margins. The Council on Wage and Price Stability issued similar findings earlier.
The June increase marked the fifth consecutive month that retail prices have risen by 1 percent or more. The administration now predicts that consumer prices will rise 8.3 percent this year, compared to 9 percent in 1978.
However, officials said yesterday's new figures may prompt economists to review previous forecasts. With a 13.2 percent annual rate for the first six months of this year, it would require sharp improvement to reach Carter's goal.
Yesterday's report brought the overall consumer price index to 216.9 percent of its 1967 average, meaning it took $216.90 to buy the same goods and services last month that cost $100 just 12 years ago.