COLUMBUS, Ohio — The cost of living is on the rise. The Labor Department reported consumer prices jumped 5.4% in July from a year earlier.
The good news with these numbers, even though prices for U.S. consumers rose last month, it's at its slowest pace since February. This comes after months of steep increases in costs and inflation, which were at their fastest pace in more than a decade.
The food industry has been one of the most impacted sectors.
The cost of eating out in July saw its biggest one-month surge in 40 years. And shoppers are spending more at the grocery store. Beef and veal jumped 6.5% in the past year. Pork products increased 7.8% and whole milk rose 8.1%.
Tyson Foods, the second-largest meat producer in the world, announced this week COVID-19 expenses, and many COVID-19 related indirect costs are driving up prices of raw materials, distribution and transportation.
Prices for chicken are up 15.6%, beef increased 11.6% and pork skyrocketed 39.3% at Tyson Foods, according to the company’s earnings report.
“I think it is very natural for the consumer to say, ‘Hey, what’s going on at the retail level?” said Cheryl Day, the executive vice president at the Ohio Pork Council. “Our hog prices are the same that we’ve had for 40 years. It’s a cycle that goes up and down. We are not seeing anything that is extremely low or high at the farm level pricing.”
The Ohio Pork Council represents more than 2,500 farm families in the state. The council says farmers have continued to face other obstacles affecting their bottom lines.
“We are seeing extremely tight labor,” Day said. “But they do have additional costs in feed. Because corn and soybean markets are up, so their feed costs are up. When you add all that up, coming out of COVID, doing business today is a lot more expensive.”
Day suggests shopping around to find protein products at a better cost.
Not all food products are up. One bright spot in the report is prices for fruits and vegetables are down slightly in the past month.
Filling up at the pump remains pricey, especially for drivers with long commutes. The new government report says gas is up 41% compared to last year. That's fueling a rise in overall prices.
Used car prices slowed last month after soaring for most of the year. Airline tickets declined a little from the previous month but are still up 19% over last year.
"Those increases that we've seen continue to put a squeeze on the household budget," says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst with Bankrate. He says it's not clear how long the current increases will continue.
"We won't know until probably early part of 2022, with any clarity, whether or not inflation was just passing through town or whether those higher numbers are here to stay for a while."
Pandemic-related supply chain issues are one factor influencing costs. Once those stabilize economists believe prices could too.