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Consumer prices jump in March as economy reopens, make biggest monthly gain since 2012

Consumer Prices
Posted at 8:02 PM, Apr 13, 2021

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer prices increased a sharp 0.6% in March over February, the biggest monthly increase since 2012, while inflation over the past year rose a sizable 2.6%.

The big gains were expected to be a temporary blip and not a sign that long dormant inflation pressures were emerging.

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that the March increase in its consumer price index followed a 0.4% increase in February and was the biggest one-month gain since a 0.6% rise in August 2012.

The sharp increase was mostly driven by a more than 9% in gas prices in March. Gasoline prices are more than 22% higher than a year ago.

Food prices are increasing as well; in March they were up 0.1% from February, and up 3.5% from a year ago.

A year ago, the pandemic caused such a slow down, consumer prices in March 2021 was 2.5% higher than March 2020.

While the 2.6% advance was significantly higher than the Federal Reserve’s 2% target for inflation, the jump reflected in large part the fact that a year ago prices were actually falling as the pandemic shut down the country.