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Inflation Gave Most Americans a Pay Cut in January

In years, the labor market has been fueling rapid wage gains for most workers – the only problem is that red-hot Inflation is quickly eroding those increases. The Labor Department reported on Friday that average hourly earnings for all employees declined 1.7% in January from the same month a year ago when factoring in the impact of rising consumer prices. Average hourly earnings increased by just 0.1% in January when factoring in the 0.6% Inflation spike.

The typical U.S. worker is worse off today than a year ago, even though nominal wages are rising at the fastest pace in years. The government reported Thursday morning that the consumer price index (CPI) rose 7.5% in January from a year ago, marking the fastest increase since February 1982, when Inflation hit 7.6%.  The CPI measures a bevy of goods ranging from gasoline and health care to groceries and rents – jumped 0.6% in the one month from December.

Inflation Gave Most Americans a Pay Cut in JanuaryThe core prices, which exclude more volatile measurements of food and energy, climbed 6% in January from the previous year – a sharp increase from December, when they rose 5.5%. It was the steepest 12-month increase since August 1982. Seema Shah, the chief strategist at Principal Global Investors, said that the U.S. annual CPI is the highest since 1982, and what’s worse is that this likely isn’t the peak. Higher-than-expected monthly gains in core CPI indicate continued underlying heat and will do nothing to relieve pressure on the Fed to tighten sharply and urgently.

Price increases were widespread: Although energy prices rose just 0.9% in January from the previous month, they’re still up 27% from last year. Gasoline, on average, costs 40% more than it did last year. Food prices have also climbed 7% higher over the year, while used car and truck prices – a significant component of the Inflation increase – are up 40.5%. Shelter costs jumped 0.3% for the month and 4% year-over-year.

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