Inflation Soared in November, Reaching Highest Level in Almost 40 Years

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It's no wonder Americans are struggling so much with rising living costs.

Key points

  • The Consumer Price Index rose 6.8% in November on an annual basis.
  • That's the largest inflation hike since 1982.

It's hardly a secret that everyday living costs have gotten more expensive. These days, Americans are paying up at the supermarket, the pump, and just about everywhere. Unfortunately, rampant inflation doesn't appear to be slowing down.

In November, the Consumer Price Index, which measures fluctuations in the cost of consumer goods, rose 0.8% from the previous month. But more significantly, it climbed a whopping 6.8% on an annual basis, representing the fastest rate since June 1982. It also slightly outpaced the 6.7% increase economists had been anticipating.

Key categories that got more expensive

In November, gas prices were up 58.1% from the previous year, representing the largest climb since April 1980. And grocery prices increased 6.4% on an annual basis, marking the largest increase since December 2008. Food prices at restaurants rose, too, but at a slightly lower annual rate of 5.8%.

Meanwhile, shelter costs, which account for about one-third of the Consumer Price Index, increased 3.8% on an annual basis. Used car and truck prices were up 31.4%.

Wages can't keep up with inflation

Over the past year, gross wages have increased by 4.8%. But that hasn't been enough to keep pace with inflation. In fact, it's fair to say that despite wage growth, Americans have been losing buying power month over month. And things could continue to get worse before they get better.

Combating inflation

It's too soon to predict when everyday expenses will creep back down toward more moderate levels. Some economists have made it clear that they expect high levels of inflation to persist well into 2022.

Those who are struggling to make ends meet in the face of rising living costs may have few options other than to cut back on non-essential spending or boost their earnings with a second job to stay afloat. Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck without any money in savings to fall back on. And many of those who did have cash reserves before the pandemic struck depleted their savings in the wake of the massive economic crisis the outbreak spurred.

The one silver lining is that today's labor market is strong, and there are roughly 11 million job openings available to workers who are currently unemployed or underemployed. Those looking to gain buying power given recent inflation levels may be in a stronger position to seek out better-paying jobs than they were earlier in the year.

But still, inflation is apt to wreak havoc on a lot of people's finances. While budgeting carefully, living frugally, and boosting earnings can help, these strategies may not work for everyone.

Households that are really struggling in light of inflation shouldn't hesitate to negotiate some of their current expenses if their paychecks can't cover their rising costs. Getting a break on rent, auto loan payments, or utility bills could help offset the higher cost of essentials -- and prevent some consumers from landing in a pile of dangerous debt.

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