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Inflation Remains at Play in US Economy, Key Indicator Shows

Retail apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent last month and were up an unadjusted 5.1 percent from August 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Tuesday in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The overall CPI, a key inflation gauge, rose 0.1 percent in August after being unchanged in July. Over the past 12 months, consumer prices increased an unadjusted 8.3 percent. Increases in the shelter, food and medical care indexes were the largest of many contributors to the broad-based monthly increase, but were mostly offset by a 10.6 percent drop in the gasoline index. For the 12 months through August, the CPI increased 8.3 percent, just below the 8.5 percent uptick for the period ending July.

President Biden said the data shows more progress in bringing global inflation down in the U.S. economy.

“Overall, prices have been essentially flat in our country these last two months,” Biden said. “That is welcome news for American families, with more work still to do. Gas prices are down an average of $1.30 a gallon since the beginning of the summer. This month, we saw some price increases slow from the month before at the grocery store, and real wages went up again for a second month in a row, giving hard-working families a little breathing room.”

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He said it will take more time and resolve to bring inflation down, which is why lawmakers passed the Inflation Reduction Act to lower the cost of healthcare, prescription drugs and energy.

“As we bring prices down, we are creating good paying jobs and bringing manufacturing back to America.” Biden added.

In apparel, women’s wear prices rose 0.5 percent, with increases of 2.1 percent in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group, and 1.2 percent in suits and separates balanced by declines of 4.6 percent in dresses and 0.6 percent in outerwear.

Men’s wear prices dipped 0.1 percent for the month. Gains of 3 percent in pants and shorts, 1.3 percent in shirts and sweaters and 0.7 percent in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group were seen, while prices for suits, sport coats and outerwear fell 2.3 percent.

Prices were up 2.6 percent for girls’ apparel, 0.5 percent for boys’ clothes and 0.6 percent for infants’ and toddlers’ apparel. Footwear prices declined 0.5 percent in August, with decreases of 0.6 percent in women’s and 0.1 percent in boys’ and girls’, while men’s rose 0.2 percent.

In the home goods sector, retail prices for household furnishings and supplies increased 1.1 percent in August and were up 10.6 percent from a year earlier. Within the category, the cost of furniture and bedding rose 0.5 percent for the month and 12.8 percent from August 2021.

Fluctuation in raw material prices is congruous to the uneven clothing prices. U.S. spot cotton prices averaged $1.09 per pound for the week ended Sept. 8, down from $1.20 the previous week, but up from 91.34 cents a year earlier.

In the overall economy, the core index, minus food and energy, rose 0.6 percent in August, a larger increase than in July. The indexes for shelter, medical care, household furnishings and operations, new vehicles, motor vehicle insurance, and education were among those that increased over the month. Some indexes declined in August, BLS noted, including those for airline fares, communication, and used cars and trucks.

The core index rose 6.3 percent over the last 12 months. The energy index increased 23.8 percent in the period, a smaller gain than the 32.9 percent increase for the period ending July.

The energy index, important for business operations and logistics, fell 5 percent in August after declining 4.6 percent in July. The gasoline index declined 10.6 percent over the month following a 7.7 percent decrease in July. However, the electricity index increased in August, rising 1.5 percent, its fourth consecutive monthly increase of at least 1.3 percent, BLS noted.

The energy index rose 23.8 percent over the past 12 months. The gasoline index increased 25.6 percent over the span and the fuel oil index rose 68.8 percent. The index for electricity rose 15.8 percent, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending August 1981. The index for natural gas increased 33 percent over the last 12 months.