January CPI Report Live Updates: Prices Cool Less Than Expected

January CPI Report Live Updates: Prices Cool Less Than Expected

Food inflation picked up slightly in January compared with the previous month, although price gains continued to slow on an annual basis.

Overall food prices rose 0.4 percent in January. That was up from December, when prices increased 0.2 percent.

Grocery prices and the cost of eating out also accelerated from December. Still, food price increases continued to moderate compared to a year earlier. Overall, food prices were up 2.6 percent in the year through January, slightly down from 2.7 percent in December. That is still a faster rate before the pandemic, however.

Prices for fruits and vegetables increased 0.4 percent in January, up from December, when prices were flat. Meats, poultry and fish prices fell 0.2 percent after picking up 0.1 percent the month before. A gauge of costs for dairy and related products increased 0.2 percent in January.

Egg prices, which skyrocketed earlier in the pandemic, continued to increase, albeit at a slower rate. They rose 3.4 percent in January from the month before. Recent avian influenza outbreaks have contributed to the uptick in egg prices, economists said.

Overall food inflation has cooled as transportation, raw material and packaging costs have eased in the past several months. The cost of eating at restaurants has not moderated as much as grocery costs, mainly because business owners are facing more pressure from higher labor costs.

Michael Swanson, the chief agricultural economist at Wells Fargo, said he expected food price increases to continue moderating in the coming months. Still, he said that many consumers had yet to feel much relief.

“It’s going to take time for them to accept that there’s a new price point in the market for these products,” Mr. Swanson said.

Some consumers said they had noticed that grocery prices were not rising as much as they were before. But they continued to struggle with the overall cost of food, which is much higher than it was several years ago.

Naome Dunnell, 39, an educator in Newton, N.J., said she first started to notice a big jump in food prices more than a year and a half ago. Since then, she has had to buy less at the grocery store for herself and her four children. Instead of purchasing two gallons of milk each week, she now opts for just one.

Ms. Dunnell said she has also stopped buying some healthier products, like salmon, because it is out of her budget. And she has tried to ration portions “to save money and to try to stretch stuff out for the week.”

Although Ms. Dunnell said she was happy that food prices were not surging anymore, she said she was still frustrated by the high cost of groceries and she had not seen an increase in her wages in the past several years.

“The relief is not really there,” Ms. Dunnell said. “Relief is if the price of a gallon of milk goes back down.”

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Kyle C. Garrison

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