Overall inflation grew faster than expected in September in the U.S. but showed signs of recovery across several metrics critical to the Federal Reserve’s decision making.
According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), costs of goods and services rose at a rate of 3.7% between September 2022 and September 2023 and 0.4% from August 2023. Both numbers were 0.1% ahead of forecasts for the two periods, stoking concerns about the economy’s health. Rising rental costs contributed heavily to the growth in overall inflation, although analysts expect to see the market balance in the coming months.
Despite this, several factors improved during the month, mitigating the impact of higher costs on American residents. Food prices rose at their slowest rate in two years, marking the first time since 2022 that the sector’s pace matched overall inflation. Excluding volatile food and gas prices from the CPI also indicated that “core” inflation, considered to be a more accurate representation of consumer expenses, continued to stagnate in August, moving at the slowest pace seen since 2021.
The growth of overall inflation may prolong the Federal Reserve’s use of high interest rates, although board members decided against another hike in their most recent meeting. A rate increase is even more likely considering the pace of job growth seen during September. The economy gained 336,000 new workers over the course of the month, nearly twice the amount expected by analysts, putting upward pressure on current inflation trends.
However, even if the Fed continues to implement disinflationary measures over the final quarter of 2023, this does not mean its leaders are disappointed in the direction that the CPI is taking. Not only have core inflation metrics improved, but businesses and consumers have continued to demonstrate high levels of financial responsibility over the last three years. These trends have reduced the impact of economic headwinds and protected vulnerable industries from collapse. Should these two groups continue to exercise caution and make good decisions, the U.S. will be able to overcome its challenges and make a full recovery from the COVID pandemic faster than otherwise.