As US inflation continues to cool, consumer costs largely on the rise in West

Rising food, housing and energy costs afflicted residents across the West coast and beyond in May, even as nationwide inflation levels continued to abate.

All told, consumer costs grew by 0.4% between April and May in the U.S. Western region, comprised of 13 states that include California, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii, according to the Labor Department’s consumer price index.

In the last 12 months, those costs have climbed by 4.5% alone, with food prices (6.4% increase) largely driving the rise. 

Released Tuesday, the federal government's consumer price index serves as an inflation gauge prepared monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The index measures the average change over time of what urban consumers pay for daily goods and services such as food, clothing, shelter, fuel, transportation fares and charges for doctors' and dentists' services.

Now that inflation has fallen to 4% nationally, down from 8.6% a year prior, forecasters have indicated that the Federal Reserve is expected to abstain from another rate hike Wednesday following a historic 14-month wave of interest rate increases.

Energy prices, which dropped by 7.2% in the last year, were among the few goods and services to have fallen since last May In the Western region — which also includes Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Key regional takeaways

  • Food prices rose 0.2% last month as the cost for fruits and vegetables alone increased by 1.7%.
  • The energy index rose 0.8% between April and May, mainly due to higher prices for gasoline, which increased 0.8%. Prices for electricity increased 1% for the same period.
  • However, as energy prices fell overall in the past year, prices paid for electricity rose 9% and prices for natural gas service rose 1.7%.
  • Residents also saw higher prices last month for used vehicles (3.1% increase,) medical care (0.7% rise), and shelter (0.4% increase.)

Inflation in the MidwestFood costs on the rise in the Midwest, even as U.S. inflation levels continue to dip

Inflation in the Northeast USAs inflation continues to cool across the US, Northeast may continue to feel pinch

U.S. inflation numbers for May

May marked the 11th straight month that inflation slowed across the United States, providing Americans with relief at both the gas pumps and grocery stores.

Consumer prices increased 4% last month from last May, the smallest yearly increase since March 2021, but still higher than the Federal Reserve’s 2-3% inflation target. That increase is also down from 4.9% in April and a 40-year high of 9.1% last June, according to the Labor Department’s consumer price index.

Prices rose 0.1% from April to May following a 0.4% increase from March to April.

A shopper peruses the frozen food offerings in a cases at a Costco warehouse Wednesday, May 10, 2023, in Sheridan, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) ORG XMIT: OTKDZ104

The index for shelter was the largest contributor to the monthly increase, followed by an increase in the index for used cars and trucks, according to the report.

The food index increased 0.2% in May — including a 0.1% increase to grocery prices — after being unchanged in the previous two months. Restaurant prices increased by 0.5% and are up 8.3% over the past year.

Meanwhile, the energy index declined 3.6% as energy commodities like gasoline and oil, as well as energy services such as electricity and utilities, all fell. Gas prices alone fell 5.6% in May, down nearly 20% from a year ago.

Other indexes that saw a decrease in May include household furnishings and operations, as well as airline fares.

Nationally, price increases have largely eased, which is part of the reason the Federal Reserve is expected to pause its series of aggressive interest rate hikes meant to staunch the fallout of inflation. However, the Fed's concern with core prices — which exclude volatile food and energy items and better capture longer-term trends — may mean another interest hike is in the horizon in July.

The Fed will announce its official interest rate decision Wednesday afternoon after the ending of its next policy meeting. That announcement will also include a summary of economic projections of what it expects inflation, employment, interest rates, and economic growth to be in coming years.