Wholesale inflation accelerated in September after two straight months of falling prices for producers’ goods and services, according to data released Wednesday by the Labor Department.
The producer price index, which tracks the prices producers charge for their goods and services, rose 0.4 percent in September. Economists expected a smaller 0.2-percent increase in producer prices last month.
Producer prices are up 8.5 percent on the year, down from an 8.7 percent inflation rate in August and in line with economists’ expectations.
Prices for goods and services without food, energy or trade — three volatile areas of the economy — rose 5.6 percent over the past 12 months, the same rate as in August, and 0.4 percent last month alone.
Producer price inflation rebounded last month as gas prices stabilized near current levels. Two months of plunging gas prices in July and August helped turn producer price inflation negative after the steep rise in energy prices over April and May pushed it toward record levels.
The Labor Department pinned much of the September increase in producer inflation on rising prices for services and food. Producers charged 15.7 percent more last month for both fresh and shelf-stable vegetables, according to the department, while prices for diesel fuel, natural gas, eggs and pork also rose.
A sharp increase in costs for travel services also pushed wholesale inflation higher in September, even as prices for non-energy and food related goods were flat last month.
The new wholesale inflation data comes a day before the Labor Department is set to release data on consumer price growth in September — a far more influential read into the pace of inflation. Economists expect the consumer price index to have increased by 0.2 percent in September, according to consensus estimates.
High inflation has already weighed heavily on the U.S. economy and President Biden’s approval ratings, posing a major threat for Democrats as they attempt to retain control of the House and Senate in the upcoming midterm elections.
But the stubbornness of inflation and the measures taken by the Federal Reserve to fight it pose deeper risks to both the economy and the president’s political standing.
Fed officials have vowed not to let up on rate hikes while inflation remains high and shows little sign of falling steadily, even if it means driving the economy toward a recession.
“If unemployment goes up, that’s unfortunate. If it goes up a lot, that’s really very difficult,” said Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, during a Monday conference.
“But price stability makes the future better,” Evans added.
Biden admitted Tuesday night there is a possibility of a “slight recession,” while reiterating that he doesn’t think there will be one at all in the U.S.
“No,” Biden said when asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper if Americans should prepare for a recession.
“It hadn’t happened yet,” the president added later. “I don’t think there will be a recession. If it is, it’ll be a very slight recession. That is, we’ll move down slightly.”
Updated at 9:35 a.m.