The increase in U.S. consumer prices eased again in November, rising at their slowest pace since last December, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.
The consumer price index climbed 7.1% in November from a year ago, down sharply from the 7.7% figure recorded in October and continuing a trend of slower-paced inflation since the 9.1% peak in June.
While gasoline prices at service station pumps have dropped markedly in recent months, food prices remain much higher than normal in the world’s biggest economy. But overall, the inflation rate has dropped from the four-decade high in mid-2022, while remaining well above the 2.1% average rate in the three years before the coronavirus pandemic significantly affected the American economy starting in March 2020.
On a month-to-month basis, consumer prices also eased, increasing a tenth of a percentage point in November over October, down from the 0.3% figure in October and 0.6% increases in both August and September.
Gasoline, utility, medical care and used-car prices all fell in November.
The latest consumer price report likely leaves policymakers at the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, on track Wednesday to increase its benchmark interest rate by a half percentage point, after it had imposed 0.75% increases at four straight meetings to curb the rampant inflation rate.
The benchmark rate was near zero earlier this year, and now with Wednesday’s expected increase, would reach 4.25 to 4.5%.
The benchmark rate ripples throughout the U.S. economy, pushing borrowing costs higher for businesses buying supplies and raw products and for consumers getting loans to buy cars, furniture and other consumer goods.
U.S. President Joe Biden took note of the slowing pace of inflation and said he hopes prices will be back to normal by the end of next year.
“I want to be clear, it’s going to take time to get inflation back to normal levels,” he said at the White House. “As we make the transition to a more stable growth, we could see setbacks along the way, as well. We shouldn’t take anything for granted.”
Biden said his goal was to get price increases under control without stunting economic growth. Even with millions of families struggling to make ends meet, the U.S. continues to add hundreds of thousands of new jobs to corporate payrolls every month, and the U.S. jobless rate remains near a five-decade low.