What is causing inflation: The factors driving prices high each month

Over the past 18 months, Americans have faced ongoing waves of steep price hikes as inflation hit 40-year highs. It started with used and then new cars, later whole chickens and ground beef. Now it’s gas at the pump or an affordable two-bedroom apartment in Nashville. The forces fueling inflation keep changing.

At the start, inflation could be dodged by holding onto that old car or avoiding air travel. Now, record prices are concentrated on essentials such as groceries, housing and energy, raising the cost of just getting by for many.

Here is a breakdown of what has fueled inflation each month since the start of last year.

How much different items contributed to overall price growth each month

JAN. 2021

Energy prices returned to pre-pandemic levels in Feb. 2021 after a crash in gas prices early in the pandemic

Housing

Groceries

Travel & dining

Other services

Energy

MARCH

Other

goods

The cornavirus vaccine became available to all adults in Apr. 2021, spurring travel & dining spending. Used-vehicle

prices leaped as shortages and delays held back sales of new vehicles.

Used

cars

and

trucks

MAY

Groceries

Housing

Energy

Beef and pork pushed up the overall cost of groceries as increased demand collided with labor shortages and higher transportation costs.

Other

goods

Other

services

AUG.

Demand for used vehicles and travel & dining cooled during an upsurge of covid cases.

DELTA

WAVE

OCT.

Energy

Oil demand

recovered more

quickly than

supply, pushing up energy prices. In late Nov.,

Biden released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Housing

Groceries

Used cars

and trucks

Travel &

dining

Other

goods

Other

services

OMICRON

WAVE

JAN.

2022

Energy prices spiked across the world after Russia invaded Ukraine.

MARCH

Energy

Fertilizer shortages from Ukraine, livestock illness and poor harvests contributed

to rising grocery

prices.

Travel &

dining

Other

goods

Other

services

Housing costs grew as rents rose and soaring home prices put homeownership out of reach for many.

JUNE

How much different items contributed to overall price growth each month

January 2021

Energy prices returned to pre-pandemic levels in February 2021 after a crash in gas prices early in the pandemic.

Energy

Housing

Groceries

Travel and dining

Other services

Used cars

and trucks

The coronavirus vaccine became available to all adults in April 2021, spurring increased demand for travel and dining. Used-vehicle prices leaped as shortages and delays held back sales of new vehicles.

April

Other

goods

Beef and pork pushed up the overall cost of groceries as increased consumer, restaurant and global market demand collided with labor shortages and higher transportation costs.

July

DELTA WAVE

Demand for used vehicles and travel and dining shrank during an upsurge of covid cases.

October

Energy

Oil demand recovered more quickly than supply, pushing up energy prices. In late November Biden released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Housing

Groceries

Used cars

and trucks

OMICRON WAVE

January 2022

Travel and dining

Other goods

Other services

Energy prices spiked across the world after Russia, a major global supplier of fossil fuels, invaded Ukraine.

Consumer spending pivoted from goods to travel and dining and other services in spring 2022

Shortages of fertilizer from Ukraine, poor harvests and livestock illness all contributed to rising grocery prices.

Housing costs continued to rise, reflecting dramatic rent increases as soaring home prices put homeownership out of reach for many.

Energy

Housing

Other

services

June

Groceries

Used cars

and trucks

How much different items contributed to overall price growth each month

JANUARY 2021

Housing

Energy

Energy prices returned to pre-pandemic levels in February 2021 after a crash in gas prices early in the pandemic.

Groceries

MARCH

The coronavirus vaccine became available to all adults in April 2021, spurring increased demand for travel and dining. Used-vehicle prices leaped as delays and shortages held back sales of new vehicles.

Other

services

Used cars

& trucks

Travel &

dining out

Other

goods

MAY

Beef and pork pushed up the overall cost of groceries as increased consumer, restaurant and global market demand collided with labor shortages and higher transportation costs.

JULY

DELTA WAVE

Energy

Demand for used vehicles and travel and dining shrank during an upsurge of covid cases.

SEPTEMBER

Other

goods

Oil demand recovered more quickly than supply, pushing up energy prices. In late November Biden released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Housing

Other services

Travel and dining out

Used cars and trucks

Groceries

OMICRON WAVE

JANUARY 2022

Energy prices spiked across the world after Russia, a major global supplier of fossil fuels, invaded Ukraine.

Consumer spending pivoted from goods to travel and dining and other services in spring 2022.

Shortages of fertilizer from Ukraine, poor harvests and livestock illness all contributed to rising grocery prices.

Housing costs continued to rise, reflecting dramatic rent increases as soaring home prices put homeownership out of reach for many.

Energy

Housing

Travel

and

dining

Other

goods

Other

services

JUNE

Groceries

Used cars and trucks

How much different items contributed to overall price growth each month

JAN. 2021

Energy prices returned to pre-pandemic levels in Feb. 2021 after a crash in gas prices early in the pandemic

Housing

Groceries

Travel &tdining

Other services

Energy

MARCH

Used

cars

and

trucks

The coronavirus vaccine became available to all adults in Apr. 2021, spurring travel & dining spending. Used-vehicle prices leaped as shortages and delays held back sales of new vehicles.

Other

goods

MAY

Groceries

Housing

Energy

Beef and pork pushed up the overall cost of groceries as increased demand collided with labor shortages and higher transportation costs.

Other

goods

Other

services

AUG.

Demand for used vehicles and travel & dining cooled during an upsurge of covid cases.

DELTA

WAVE

OCT.

Energy

Oil demand recovered more quickly than supply, pushing up energy prices. In late Nov., Biden released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Housing

Groceries

Used cars

and trucks

Travel &

dining

Other

goods

Other

services

OMICRON

WAVE

JAN.

2022

Energy prices spiked across the world after Russia invaded Ukraine.

MARCH

Energy

Fertilizer shortages from Ukraine, livestock illness and poor harvests contributed to rising grocery prices.

Travel &

dining

Other

goods

Other

services

Housing costs grew as rents rose and soaring home prices put homeownership out of reach for many.

JUNE

How much different items contributed to overall price growth each month

JANUARY 2021

Housing

Energy prices returned to pre-pandemic levels in February 2021 after a crash in gas prices early in the pandemic.

Groceries

Energy

MARCH

The coronavirus vaccine became available to all adults in April 2021, spurring increased demand for travel and dining. Used-vehicle prices leaped as delays and shortages held back sales of new vehicles.

Other

services

Used cars

and trucks

Travel and

dining out

Other

goods

MAY

Beef and pork pushed up the overall cost of groceries as increased consumer, restaurant and global market demand collided with labor shortages and higher transportation costs.

JULY

DELTA WAVE

Energy

Demand for used vehicles and travel and dining shrank during an upsurge of covid cases.

SEPTEMBER

Housing

Other

goods

Oil demand recovered more quickly than supply, pushing up energy prices. In late November Biden released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Other services

Travel and dining out

NOVEMBER

Used cars and trucks

Groceries

OMICRON WAVE

JANUARY 2022

Energy prices spiked across the world after Russia, a major global supplier of fossil fuels, invaded Ukraine.

Consumer spending pivoted from goods to travel and dining and other services in spring 2022.

Shortages of fertilizer from Ukraine, poor harvests and livestock illness all contributed to rising grocery prices.

Housing costs continued to rise, reflecting dramatic rent increases as soaring home prices put homeownership out of reach for many.

Energy

Housing

Travel

and

dining

Other

goods

Other

services

JUNE

Groceries

Used cars and trucks

Recent inflation has been a bit different than the last big wave of price increases 40 years ago. Its causes keep shifting.

Share with The Post: What’s one way you’ve felt the impact of inflation?

Of course, some price growth problems have been there all along, like a constant background hum, such as higher prices for slower shipping because of fractured supply chains or the difficulty of meeting pent-up consumer demand.

But other inflationary problems have more to do with the complicated trends of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to price hikes that ebb and flow. Money that might have paid for in-person services like gym memberships went instead to at-home fitness equipment. When coronavirus cases fell, people flocked to travel. When they rose, eating out was swapped for groceries.

Inflation explained: How prices took off

Businesses didn’t always have enough stock on hand to meet the demand and couldn’t make or ship goods fast enough to catch up. So some prices skyrocketed, often for items that weren’t a major part of a family budget.

But that changed this year, when inflation began to spread into nearly every facet of the economy. By the time Russia invaded Ukraine in February, causing staggering price increases at the gas pump, many people were already facing big price hikes in essentials such as food and shelter.

5 economic forces behind the Fed’s next rate-hike decision

The Federal Reserve has begun to take steps to combat inflation. It can’t create more goods or untangle supply chain snarls, but it can increase interest rates, which it has done three times so far this year. Higher interest rates slow demand and the economy by raising the cost of lending.

Coming off another record rate of inflation for June, the Fed is expected to announce higher rates Wednesday in a bid to head off any bigger price waves.

About this story

The seasonally adjusted effect on all items measure from Table 6 of the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s monthly consumer price index report was used to calculate how much different items contributed to overall price growth each month. Travel and dining out includes food away from home, car and truck rental, airline fares and lodging away from home. Housing refers to all types of shelter except lodging away from home; groceries refers to all food at home. Other goods and other services refer to all commodities and services not otherwise specified.

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