Consumer inflation heats up to nearly 8% a year in metro Denver

Inflation is gaining a stronger grip across metro Denver’s economy and is now driving up costs on a large majority of items that consumers spend money on, according to the latest Consumer Price Index for the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area.

Consumer prices rose 7.9% between January of last year and January of this year, up from a 6.5% year-over-year gain in November, a 4.5% pace in September and a 3.5% pace in July. Denver’s rate is also higher than the 7.5% consumer inflation rate measured nationally in January.

“The average Colorado household spent $2,900 more on food, housing, transportation, medical care, recreation and education over the past 12 months than in 2020. The 2022 impact on spending will be even more,” said Chris Brown, vice president of policy and research at the Common Sense Institute, a business-funded think tank, in a research note on the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Consumer inflation in metro Denver is now running at its highest rate since 1982 — when it averaged 9.1%.

Energy costs continue to remain one of the places where consumers might notice inflation the most. The cost of a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline is up 39.7% in the metro area. Household energy costs are up 8.4%.

Even finding an affordable car to fill with gasoline remains difficult. Used car prices are up 43.5% over the past year, with many used models now selling for more than the new equivalent. A study from auto website found that a 1-year-old used car costs 1.3% more than the same model new in metro Denver. Used prices are 13% higher than new prices for a Subaru Crosstrek in metro Denver, 12.1% higher for a Toyota 4Runner, 10.4% for a Toyota Tacoma and 8.9% higher for a Subaru Forester.

Eating out at a restaurant is 9.8% higher than it was at this time last year, a reflection of both the higher wages needed to attract and retain workers and higher food costs, primarily meat, poultry, fish and eggs, where prices are up 10.9%. Fruits and vegetables, by contrast, have stayed flat the past year and alcohol costs are up 2.9%.

Clothing costs are up 9.7% in metro Denver while medical care costs are up 12.1% and rents are rising 5%, according to the BLS.

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