Consumer Concerns About Inflation Hit a Record High in May

Consumers were more concerned about mounting inflation pressures in May, according to new numbers released on Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data.

Median inflation expectations for the year ahead increased from 6.3% to 6.6% in May, up 0.3% from April, the New York Fed said. This marks the highest recorded rate of survey since June 2013, tied with March.

The record high expectations come the same month that consumer prices rose by 8.6% compared to a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report. This number was up from 8.3% growth in April and from the 8.5% growth in March and represented the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981.

At the same time, inflation expectations over the next three years remained unchanged at 3.9%. Median inflation uncertainty for the short term dipped slightly from a series high in April. At the medium-term horizon, inflation uncertainty increased to a new series high.

As for home prices, expectations declined to 5.8% from April’s 6.0%, but remain elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels. Gas price expectations rose slightly to 5.5%. The expected change in food, medical care and rent fell by 0.1 percentage point to 9.3%, 9.4% and 10.2%, respectively.

This rise in prices was addressed by the U.S. Federal Reserve in late March, when the central bank raised its policy interest rate by 25 basis points – the first hike in more than three years. Interest rates in the U.S. saw another increase in May as the Fed made the move to raise short-term interest rates by 0.50%. This marked the most aggressive increase made in a single Fed meeting since May 2000.

In response to the most recent consumer price report, industry leaders called on the Biden administration to take measures to alleviate inflation by repealing tariffs on goods from China.

“This report showing that rampant inflation continues is one more reason for the administration to move quickly to repeal tariffs,” National Retail Federation president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “While the Federal Reserve continues with its long-term strategy to stem inflation, we need the administration and Congress to move forward on steps to lower prices that can be taken immediately. Repealing tariffs is one of those steps and one of the most effective and meaningful.”

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