Metro Denver’s inflation rate continues to be higher than U.S. rate

The gap between consumer inflation in metro Denver and the rest of the country widened even further last month, according to an update Tuesday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers ran at an annual rate of 4% nationally last month, while the annual CPI change for the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area came in at 5.1%. Denver’s annual inflation rate, which is measured every two months, was 5.7% in March and 6.4% in January.

“The primary causes of this change were a decrease in the price of energy which includes oil and gas, and slower rates of growth of prices of medical care and transportation,” said Cole Anderson, a research analyst with the Common Sense Institute, in an analysis of the CPI report.

But the declines aren’t matching what is happening elsewhere. By comparison, U.S. consumer inflation went from a 6% pace in February to a 5% rate in March to a 4.9% pace in April and then 4% in May. The Federal Reserve has targeted an annual inflation rate of 2%.

Gasoline prices were down sharply, 17.2% in metro Denver the past year, and 11.1% in just the past two months. But after falling for several months, automobile prices are pinching consumers again, with used vehicles in the region rising 9.4% since March.

Food costs are another area where inflation is still running hot, both locally and nationally. The index for food eaten at home is up 6.8% in metro Denver the past year, while the cost of dining out is up 8.8%. Looking over the past two months, dairy products had the biggest surge of 2.1%, while vegetable and fruit prices fell 1.4%.

Housing costs, which account for about a third of the CPI, are up 7.8% over the year in metro Denver, with rents up 11.1% and energy costs up 12.4%, mostly because of natural gas, given that electricity costs are up only 1.9%. Furniture price increases have flattened out.

Anderson estimates that the typical metro Denver household has spent $16,960 more because of higher inflation than it did in 2020, with the biggest hit, $6,635, coming from higher gasoline prices and automobile costs. Housing has been the next biggest budget eater at $4,562 in additional costs, followed by food at $2,006.

If someone didn’t buy a car or if they kept on paying down a low-rate mortgage on the same house, they likely didn’t experience increases as large as CSI calculated. Rising food costs, however, have been the hardest to escape.

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