Utahns grapple with higher prices as inflation ticks up

Mar 12, 2024, 5:00 PM | Updated: 6:58 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Tough news for our wallets as a new report shows inflation ticked up last month.

Higher prices are hitting Utahns who are already struggling to make ends meet. These latest numbers are leading to questions about how long it will take to see some real relief.

For Aimee McDonald, who stopped Tuesday afternoon to fuel up in Lehi, it’s easy to see prices are climbing.

“They’re awful,” McDonald said, noting she buys gas at least twice a week. “I drive a lot for work.”

The average price for a gallon of gas has risen 50 cents in Utah in the last month, according to AAA. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the spike in gas prices is helping fuel the latest inflation numbers.

February’s prices were higher than January’s, especially in housing and gasoline, according to the BLS report. Compared to the same time last year, inflation is up 3.2%.

“It shows that inflation continues. It’s definitely down from where it had been in recent years, but we’re also not back to what we would be considered a normal level of inflation,” said Phil Dean, chief economist at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. “This month actually ticked up a little bit.”

Phil Dean talks to KSL TV about the BLS inflation report that was recently released. (Stuart Johnson, KSL TV)

Phil Dean talks to KSL TV about the BLS inflation report that was recently released. (Stuart Johnson, KSL TV)

According to Dean, this latest report could lead the Federal Reserve to tiptoe on cutting interest rates – something consumers have been waiting for as they hope to save money on car loans, credit cards, and mortgages.

“I think it’s going to be a slow process of those rates coming down instead of quick adjustments,” said Dean.

It’s not just gasoline. McDonald said she pays more across the board.

“Everything,” she said. “Everything’s more.”

As a mom of three kids, it’s tough. She just traded in her older, bigger vehicle for a more economical one. That helps – sort of. But it still adds up.

“Guess you need to work three jobs now,” McDonald said. “I don’t know.”

Besides gas and housing, other notable price increases came in airfare, car insurance, clothing, and recreation, according to the BLS report.

New consumer price numbers are released each month. Dean pointed out that even in past months when inflation was reported to be falling, it doesn’t mean prices were falling, too.

“Prices are still increasing,” he said. “It just means prices are growing at a slower rate than they were before.”

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Utahns grapple with higher prices as inflation ticks up