U.S. consumer prices increased in May by the largest amount in more than a year as costs of food and gasoline rose sharply and airline fares jumped by the biggest amount in 15 years, the government reported Tuesday, pointing to a firming of inflation pressures.
The Labor Department said its consumer price index (CPI) increased 0.4 percent last month, the biggest one-month rise since a 0.6 percent advance in February 2013.
Over the past 12 months, consumer prices are up 2.1 percent. While that was the largest 12-month price change since late 2012, it still left prices rising at a modest pace near the Federal Reserve (Fed) 2-percent target.
Excluding volatile energy and food costs, core CPI was up 0.3 percent in May, the biggest monthly gain since mid-2011. Over the past 12 months, core prices are up 2 percent, again in line with the Fed 2-percent target.
The gain in overall May CPI reflected price increases in several areas. Food costs were up 0.5 percent, the biggest increase since mid-2011. Food prices have been driven higher this year by an unusually severe winter and a California drought.
Energy prices jumped 0.9 percent last month, the biggest monthly gain since December. Gasoline prices rose 0.7 percent, and prices for electricity also rose after declining in the previous month.
Airline tickets jumped 5.8 percent in May, the biggest monthly increase since mid-1999. The costs of clothing, prescription drugs, and new cars all showed increases last month.
The increase in inflation actually should comfort some Fed officials who had worried inflation was running too low. Central-bank officials began a two-day policy meeting Tuesday.