WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer prices increased a sharp 0.6% in March over February, the biggest monthly increase since 2012, while inflation over the past year rose a sizable 2.6%.
The big gains were expected to be a temporary blip and not a sign that long dormant inflation pressures were emerging.
The Labor Department reported Tuesday that the March increase in its consumer price index followed a 0.4% increase in February and was the biggest one-month gain since a 0.6% rise in August 2012.
The sharp increase was mostly driven by a more than 9% increase in gas prices in March. Gasoline prices are more than 22% higher than a year ago.
Food prices are increasing as well; in March they were up 0.1% from February and up 3.5% from a year ago.
A year ago, the pandemic caused such a slow down, consumer prices in March 2021 was 2.5% higher than March 2020.
While the 2.6% advance was significantly higher than the Federal Reserve’s 2% target for inflation, the jump reflected in large part the fact that a year ago prices were actually falling as the pandemic shut down the country.