Grocery prices hit 40-year high: Inflation, Ukraine has costs going up across the board
Americans — including Pennsylvanians — are paying significantly more than they were a year ago for a host of goods and necessities.
The cost of that inflation, according to government statistics, has eaten into significant gains in wages made by large sectors of the public in the wake of the “Great Resignation.”
The most visible and highly publicized increases have come at the gasoline pump.
According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $4.24. While that average has decreased 7 cents from where it was a week ago, it’s $1.36 more than the nation was paying a year ago. In Pennsylvania, the average on Tuesday was $4.32, which is also $1.29 more than the state average a year ago.
The price of gasoline was already on the way up, though the impact of the war in Ukraine sent the average into the stratosphere within the last month due to its effect on petroleum markets.
But earlier this month, the effect of inflation came into stark relief when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released figures showing that inflation surged 7.9% in February. Looking at the consumer price index, which measures goods and services, economists saw the fastest acceleration of prices since January 1982.
Most of the increases were driven by energy prices. But the rapid rise in costs is starting to be felt across much of the economy, where prices were already rising due to supply chain concerns, tight markets and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Take whole milk. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a gallon of whole milk in Philadelphia had an average price last month of $5.49, an increase of 30 cents in just one month. It was also significantly higher than the national average, $3.88.
And the price of large shell eggs, the size in highest demand, rose about 30% for the month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, are how much some prices rose in just the last year:
Coffee, $5.24, up from $4.67 in January 2021.
Bacon, $6.81 a pound, up from $5.76 a year earlier.
Chicken, $3.21 a pound, up from $2.97.
Orange juice, $2.75 a gallon, up from $2.35.
Inflation is also being felt in big ticket items. Used car and truck prices are up 41.2% over the past year, while new car prices rose 12.4% over the last 12 months. The average price for a new car, according to Edmunds.com, is just under $45,000. In January, 8 out of 10 new car buyers paid above the sticker price.
Pennsylvania saw record increases in home prices, due to not only inflation but also an exceptionally tight market and raging demand. According to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, the statewide median sales price in February was $184,000, an increase of 4.3% from one year ago. The good news: That trend seems to have leveled off, with prices declining 3.2% since January.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said buyers are getting a “double whammy” through rising mortgage rates and escalating prices.
York Dispatch staff contributed to this report.