The month-to-month decrease of 0.1% was in line with analysts’ forecasts, while core inflation, which factors out the more volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.3%, also reflecting expectations. Food prices increased 0.3% and shelter prices increased 0.8% even as energy prices fell 4.5%. The month-to-month decrease was the largest since April 2020, when consumer and business spending plummeted amid government lockdown mandates.
Year-over-year inflation was charted at 6.5% in December 2022, marking a decline from the 7.1% recorded in the previous month. The decrease in energy prices responsible for much of the lower headline inflation follows gas prices attaining their highest levels on record last year.
Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride said in comments provided to The Daily Wire that “the tide has turned, and improvement is now the prevailing trend,” implying that policymakers at the Federal Reserve could slow their aggressive actions to increase target federal funds rates as a result of the new inflation report. “But that may just mean more small rate hikes rather than fewer large rate hikes,” he said. “The end point is still to be determined.”
Officials at the Federal Reserve raised rates by three-quarters of a percentage point on four consecutive occasions last year before implementing a half-percent increase last month, causing higher interest rates across the economy. McBride observed that prices for goods are generally declining even as prices for services continue to increase.
“Moderating inflation is most apparent in the prices for goods such as used cars and trucks that have declined for six straight months. But it is in services where labor shortages are most pronounced, making services inflation tougher to corral,” he commented. “Despite the headline and core results meeting expectations, the broad-based improvement that needs to be seen to get inflation truly under control is still lacking. In addition to shelter, plenty of other necessities increased at an outsized pace last month: food, apparel, vehicle insurance, and household furnishings and operations.”
Employers have expressed concern regarding a labor shortage that has worsened inflation as companies hike pay to attract new workers. The phenomenon comes as labor force participation failed to recover over the past two years, worsening a decades-long trend of low engagement in the job market. The metric dropped from 63.4% in February 2020 to 60.2% in April 2020 amid government lockdowns and business closures, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor force participation climbed to 62.3% as of December 2022.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell believes the “participation gap” is mostly a result of “excess retirements” that occurred beyond “what would have been expected from population aging alone,” even as younger individuals largely returned to the workforce.
The most recent inflation data come after one of the worst stock market performances in modern history as soaring prices, geopolitical pressures, and backlogged supply chains plagued the economy. The S&P 500 index plummeted nearly 20% in 2022, rivaling the 37% decline seen in 2008 amid the collapse of the banking system, as well as the 12% and 22% declines witnessed in 2001 and 2002 amid the dot-com bubble.