Here’s where inflation is hitting your wallet the hardest
As it has been for the last five years, overall inflation in the U.S. was pretty tame: Prices were up just 2 percent in October from a year ago.
But that number is just an average. The headlines from the government’s latest monthly report on consumer prices typically overlook the real impact on your pocketbook. Among the more than 300 categories of goods and services tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some items were up or down by as much as 10 percent.
A closer look at the data shows that your individual inflation rate depends a lot on your personal household budget.
If you like bacon (up 11.8 percent), for example, your grocery bill may have gone up faster than your friend who loves to snack on bananas (down 4.8 percent). And while your cable TV bill was up 6.2 percent since October 2016, you can likely get a great deal on a new television (down 10.3 percent.)
To better gauge how inflation is hitting your wallet, here are some of the biggest price changes over the last 12 months for a range of goods and services.
The prices of services overall are rising a bit faster than prices of goods, but some services are much pricier than others. Big gainers include services that involve transportation, largely because fuel prices have moved higher. Other big gains include hospital services and education.
The folks at the BLS track dozens of different food items every month, and the changes in prices vary widely. Food prices tend to be volatile because of short-term swings in supply; that’s one reason economists strip out food and energy prices when looking at the pace of underlying inflation.
Energy prices have taken a big jump in the last 12 months, with gasoline and fuel oil up more than 10 percent. Those higher prices flow through to the cost of other goods and services, from transportation to electric bills.
The cost of housing is also rising a bit faster than overall inflation, thanks in part to a steady rise in rents (up 3.7 percent.) On the flip side, the cost of many home furnishings has fallen, including major appliances (down 3.5 percent) and rugs and window shades (down 3.6 percent).
Clothes shoppers also typically see a wide range of price changes as manufacturers try to gauge which fashions will see the biggest demand. This fall, prices have fallen on men’s shirts and sweaters (down 5.3 percent) while watches are a lot pricier (up 8.3 percent).
Prices for entertainment and hobbies also cover a wide range. Going out to a movie or concert will set you back, on average, some 3.1 percent more than a year ago. But you’ll see big savings (down 8 percent) if you go toy shopping for the holidays.
John W. Schoen