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Falling energy prices fuel drop in annual inflation rate

Inflation fell significantly in October thanks to lower energy costs, but Americans' ability to keep up with inflation remains a challenge.
Falling energy prices fuel drop in annual inflation rate
Posted at 8:30 AM, Nov 14, 2023

The consumer price index, the United States' top measure for consumer inflation, dropped to 3.2% in the 12-month period ending in October, which is down from 3.7% in September. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the updated consumer price index on Tuesday.

The main reason inflation dropped significantly was the cost of energy has declined 4.5% in the last year. Consumers spent an average of 5.3% less on gas in October 2023 than October 2022. 

The once sky-high inflation on food at the grocery store has cooled to near-normal levels. Food meant to be consumed at home has gone up 2.1% in the last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. 

The cost of shelter is continuing to climb as prices for housing are up 6.7% from a year ago. 

The updated inflation numbers come two weeks after the Federal Reserve opted not to raise interest rates at its meeting. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has made it the Fed's goal to get inflation to an annualized rate of 2%. 

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The consumer price index has fluctuated in the 3%-4% range for much of 2023 after topping 9% in 2022. 

Powell previously noted some measures of core inflation, which can show signs of whether the inflation rate is declining before consumer inflation rates change, have dropped below 3%. But Powell concedes the inflation rate still needs to come down. 

"These shorter-term measures are often volatile," Powell said in late October. "In any case, inflation is still too high, and a few months of good data are only the beginning of what it will take to build confidence that inflation is moving down sustainably toward our goal."

The consumer price index weighs the costs of goods based on their importance. Items like food, shelter and energy tend to be weighted more heavily.

For working Americans, it has been a struggle to keep up with inflation. According to federal data, hourly earnings slightly outpaced inflation over the last year. A drop in average hours worked, however, means that average weekly earnings have caused Americans' buying power to drop slightly in the last year, the BLS said. 

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