Producer prices surge 11.2% in March on higher energy costs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The surging cost of energy pushed wholesale prices up a record 11.2% last month from a year earlier — another sign that inflationary pressure is widespread in the U.S. economy.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that its producer price index — which measures inflation before it reaches consumers — climbed at the fastest year-over-year pace in records going back to 2010 and rose 1.4% from February. Energy prices, which soared after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, were up 36.7% from March 2021.

The wholesale inflation report came out a day after the Labor Department reported that consumer prices last month jumped 8.5% from a year earlier — fastest annual clip since December 1981.

Under pressure to combat rising prices, the Federal Reserve raised ts benchmark short-term rate by a quarter-point last month and has signaled that it plans several more hikes this year.

An unexpectedly quick economic recovery from the pandemic recession of 2020 caught businesses by surprise. Their scramble to meet surging customer demand overwhelmed factories, ports and freight yards. The Ukraine war and draconian COVID-19 lockdowns in China have further disrupted supply chains over the past month.

“With a new wave of lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine raging on … risks to the inflation outlook remain firmly to the upside,” economists Mahir Rasheed and Kathy Bostjancic of Oxford Economics wrote in a research report.

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