Sep 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Two U.S. inflation rates: Bad and worse

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

High prices are hitting hardest in some of the biggest Senate battlegrounds.

Why it matters: Democratic strategists have worried since the spring that pockets of high inflation, particularly in the West and the South, could complicate their efforts to hold the Senate — and new federal data will help validate those fears.

Driving the news: The Consumer Price Index climbed 8.3% over the past year, according to data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's already awfully high, and it's even worse for scores of pivotal voters.

  • The Phoenix metro area — home to roughly two-thirds of voters in Arizona, where Sen. Mark Kelly (D) is up against Republican Blake Masters — saw inflation rise 13% year-over-year. That's the highest local metropolitan reading in the country.
  • The second highest metro rate is 11.7%, in the Atlanta area — home to 6 in 10 voters represented by Sen. Raphael Warnock.
  • The Miami/Fort Lauderdale area, where Sen. Marco Rubio is facing a challenge from Rep. Val Demings, clocked in with the third-biggest local report.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and other top aides are also closely watching AAA’s updates on gas prices.

  • And while the national average is now at $3.71 a gallon, down from $5.02 in June, those numbers are still notably higher out west — sitting at $4.92 in Nevada and $4.02 in Arizona.

Between the lines: Americans — and voters — are living in a variety of economic micro-climates, with disparities driven by differences in energy, food and housing costs.

  • There’s no way to sugarcoat the overall number, and it diminished hope for Fed Chair Jay Powell to achieve a so-called "soft-landing" for the economy, Axios’ Neil Irwin and Courtenay Brown wrote.
  • President Biden has largely blamed the war in Ukraine and snarled supply chains for rising prices, but has been quick to take credit for falling gas prices.

The other side: The 8.1% inflation number in the Philadelphia area, where Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman are fighting it out in the suburbs for the open Pennsylvania Senate seat, is just below the national average.

  • In the country’s major media centers, home to most TV executives, reporters and many campaign strategists, inflation isn’t as bad.
  • It was an annual 6.6% in the New York area and 7.6% in Los Angeles in August. The Washington, D.C., area was 7.5% in July.
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