WASHINGTON – Consumer prices rose in June from a year earlier at the fastest pace in more than six years, lifted by more expensive gas, car insurance, and higher rent.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the consumer price index ticked up just 0.1 percent in June. But inflation jumped 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the largest annual gain since February 2012. Core prices, which exclude the volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.2 percent in June and 2.3 percent from a year earlier.
Solid economic growth and supply bottlenecks have pushed inflation past the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target, after price gains had languished below that level for six years. That is a key reason that Fed officials expect to raise short-term rates twice more this year.
The Fed's preferred inflation gauge has increased at a slower pace, up 2.3 percent in the past year. But most economists expect the Fed will raise rates a total of four times this year as it attempts to keep inflation in check without cutting off growth.
With consumers and businesses spending more, trucking firms have struggled to hire enough workers to keep goods moving. That has boosted shipping prices, lifting costs for businesses that may soon be passed on to consumers. Trade restrictions have made lumber and washing machines more expensive.
In June, gas prices increased 0.5 percent and have soared 24.3 percent in the past 12 months. That has sent prices at the pump toward nearly $3 a gallon, sucking more money from consumers' wallets and offsetting roughly a third of the benefit from last year's tax cuts.
Still, prices at the pump may be leveling off. They averaged $2.88 a gallon nationwide Thursday, down 3 cents from a month earlier.
Rents rose 0.3 percent in June and overall housing costs have increased 3.4 percent in the past year. Auto insurance prices also increased 0.3 percent last month and have jumped 7.6 percent from a year earlier.
New and used cars and medical care have also become more expensive. Clothes, airline fares and household furniture fell in price last month.