TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The U.S. inflation rate rose by 0.4% in February, according to the latest Consumer Price Index. Overall, national inflation levels put prices 6% higher than in 2022.
The report, which is published each month by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that across all sectors, prices for consumers were up.
Although prices generally rose almost half a percent, the costs of some items that have seen increases for months have started to come down, providing some relief for shoppers.
Among the items that saw dramatic price increases over the past year were eggs. The price was 210% higher than what it was in January 2022.
Now, the new CPI shows egg prices fell 7% in February. Other common items, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products remain on an upward incline, but not as steep.
While produce prices were up 0.2% in the past month, dairy prices were only up 0.1%, with butter 1.9% lower than the past month. Potato prices rose 2.8%, lettuce costs fell 4.7% and tomato prices also increased by 2%.
For animal proteins such as meat, poultry, and fish, prices rose 0.6%, but not across the board. The biggest increase among meats was with ham, which saw prices rise 3.9% for non-canned products. Processed fish and seafood rose 1.9% as well.
After several months of increases, the price of roasted coffee decreased, marginally, by 0.1%. Overall though, coffee costs were still elevated at 0.3% compared to the month before. Tea drinkers saw even bigger increases, with a full 1.1% price jump from January.
While across grocery shelves, prices both increased and decreased, depending on the items, the biggest driver of inflation for the U.S. economy remained housing and shelter.
Turning to energy, the overall energy index showed a moderate decline, with a 0.6% collective decrease. However, gasoline prices rose 1%, but piped gas utility service fell by 8%. Overall, fuel oil prices dropped by 7.9%.
While changes in grocery and energy costs showed a general trend downward, the BLS reported shelter accounted for more than 70% of all inflation in February.
From February 2022 to February 2023, the cost of shelter rose 8.1%. Month-over-month, prices for overall housing were 0.8%. However, both cost of rent and cost of “owners’ equivalent” were up at least 8%. Rent prices rose 8.2% in the past year, while the owners’ equivalent rose 8% flat. From January to February 2023, the two items rose 0.7% each across the nation.
As far as spending power for Americans, the BLS reported a decrease in what it calls real average hourly earnings. Real earnings are the amount of money earned, while accounting for cost increases from inflation.
The Real Earnings report for February showed a 0.1% decline in earnings for American workers, which the bureau said was due to an increase in earnings of 0.2%, impacted by the 0.4% inflation increase in the past month.
“Real average weekly earnings decreased 0.4% over the month due to the change in real average hourly earnings combined with a 0.3% decrease in the average workweek,” BLS reported. It is the second month in a row of real earnings declines, after two months of minor increases in November and December.
Compared to last year, Americans’ real earnings are lower as well. From February-to-February, real hourly earnings decreased 1.3%, according to BLS.