Inflation rises in March

Inflation continues to hamper the U.S. economy.

According to new figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual inflation rate increased in March to 3.5 percent. That was an increase of 0.3 from the February rate of 3.2 percent.

The all-items-less-than-food-and-energy index jumped to 3.8 percent from 3.4 percent in February.

The latest inflation report complicates the decision of the Federal Reserve on interest rates. The Federal Reserve continued its pause in hikes on rates for a fifth straight meeting in March, keeping its target rate between 5.25 and 5.5 percent.

The pause in rate hikes followed the Federal Reserve’s aggressive approach to rein in inflation, which peaked above 9 percent. The Fed raised rates by 525 basis points since early 2022.

At its meeting in March, members of the Federal Open Market Committee had projected rates to drop to 4.6 percent bey the end of the year and 3.9 percent by the end of 2025.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell cautioned those projections could change depending on inflation and the jobs market.

The U.S. economy added 303,000 jobs in March, with unemployment remaining at 3.8 percent for the second straight month.

“These projections are not a committee decision or plan; if the economy does not evolve as projected, the path for policy will adjust as appropriate to foster our maximum-employment and price-stability goals,” Powell said.

In the new consumer-price index, used vehicles dropped 1.1 percent in March. Used vehicles are down 2.2 percent in the past year.

Consumers have continued to be plagued by soaring motor vehicle insurance prices, which are up 22.2 percent in the past year. Insurance rates increased 2.6 percent in March.

The gasoline index also jumped 1.7 percent in March.

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