August 14, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer prices shot up in July at twice the expected rate, pushed higher by surging energy and food costs. The latest surge left inflation running at the fastest pace in 17 years.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that consumer prices rose by 0.8 percent last month, twice the 0.4 percent gain that economists had been expecting.
It marked the third straight month of oversized inflation increases following jumps of 0.6 percent in May and 1.1 percent in June and left inflation rising by 5.6 percent over the past year, the biggest 12-month gain since January 1991.
That inflation surge presents a major problem for the Federal Reserve, which could be forced to start raising interest rates even as the economy struggles to avoid a recession.
The big rise in inflation left consumers even more squeezed. The Labor Department said that average weekly earnings, after adjusting for inflation, fell by 3.1 percent in July compared to a year ago, the biggest year-over-year decline since November 1990.
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