A significant portion of consumer inflation is still being driven by pandemic-driven mismatches between demand and supply. Used car costs rose 3.5% from November to December and have soared more than 37% compared with a year ago. With new car production restrained by shortages of semiconductors, consumers have snapped up used cars, forcing up their costs.

Consumer inflation jumped in December at its fastest year-over-year pace in nearly four decades, surging 7% and raising costs for consumers, offsetting recent wage gains and heightening pressure on President Joe Biden and the Federal Reserve to address what is increasingly Americans’ central economic concern.

Prices have spiked during the recovery from the pandemic recession as Americans have ramped up spending on goods such as cars, furniture and appliances. Those increased purchases have clogged ports and warehouses and exacerbated supply shortages of semiconductors and other parts. Gas prices, while declining a bit from November to December, have surged in the past year, in part because Americans have driven more in recent months after having cut back on travel and commuting earlier in the pandemic.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that excluding volatile food and gas prices, so-called core prices surged 0.6% from November to December, slightly more than the 0.5% increase from October to November. Measured year over year, core prices jumped 5.5% in December, the fastest such increase since 1991.

Rising prices have wiped out the healthy pay increases that many Americans have been receiving, making it harder for households, especially lower-income families, to afford basic expenses. Poll show that inflation has started displacing even the coronavirus as a public concern, making clear the political threat it poses to President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats.

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