Big 0.6% April wholesale price jump catches many off guard

FILE - In this April 29, 2020 file photo, a shopper wears a mask as she looks over meat products at a grocery store in Dallas.   Wholesale prices rose a higher-than-expected 0.6% in April, driven by a sharp rise in food costs.   The increase, reported Thursday, May 13, 2021,  by the Labor Department, followed a sizable 1% advance in March.(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
FILE - In this April 29, 2020 file photo, a shopper wears a mask as she looks over meat products at a grocery store in Dallas. Wholesale prices rose a higher-than-expected 0.6% in April, driven by a sharp rise in food costs. The increase, reported Thursday, May 13, 2021, by the Labor Department, followed a sizable 1% advance in March.(AP Photo/LM Otero, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – Wholesale prices, driven by escalating costs for services and food, jumped 0.6% in April, surprising economists and providing more evidence that inflation pressures are starting to mount with the country emerging from a recession brought on by the pandemic.

The increase in the producer price index, which measures inflationary pressures before they reach consumers, was double the 0.3% gain that economists had been expecting. The increase, reported Thursday by the Labor Department, followed a sizable 1% advance in March.

Over the past 12 months, wholesale prices are up 6.2%, the largest advance since the data was first calculated in 2010.

Food prices shot up 2.1% in April, the biggest monthly tick higher since a similar increase last October. Costs for things like airline services and food retailing services climbed 0.6%. Two-thirds of the increase in wholesale prices was attributed to the jump in the overall cost of such services.

Energy prices fell 2.4% after a string of big gains that began in December. Economists believe that energy prices will resume their upward march soon, reflecting among other things the temporary shutdown of the nation's largest fuel pipeline due to a cyberattack.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, rose 0.7% in April, reflecting widespread price pressures that are showing up as demand increases with the wider reopening of the economy. Over the past 12 months, core inflation at the wholesale level is up 4.1%.

The report on wholesale inflation came a day after the government reported that consumer prices shot up 0.8% in April, the largest monthly jump in more than a decade, with one-third of the gain attributed to a record 10% increase in used car prices.

Federal Reserve officials including Fed Chairman Jerome Powell insist that the recent price increases will be temporary as the economy reopens, and not a sign that inflation is getting out of control.