Price Inflation

What Is Price Inflation?

Price inflation is an increase in the price of a standardized good/service or a basket of goods/services over a specific period of time (usually one year).

Key Takeaways

  • Price inflation is an increase in the price of a collection of goods and services over a certain time period. 
  • Strong demand and supply shortages tend to cause price inflation.
  • Price inflation can also be caused by the cost of inputs to the production process increasing.
  • Price inflation is a critical measure for central banks when setting monetary policy. 
  • The consumer price index (CPI) is the most common measure of price inflation in the U.S. and is released monthly by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS).
1:09

What Is Inflation?

Understanding Price Inflation

The nominal amount of money available in an economy tends to grow larger every year relative to the supply of goods available for purchase. This overall demand-pull tends to cause some degree of price inflation—when there's not enough supply to satisfy demand, prices usually move upward.

Price inflation can also be caused by cost-push, which is when the cost of inputs to the production process increases. If a company has to pay higher wages and more for the raw materials it uses to make the final product, a large chunk of these extra expenses will likely be passed on to the customer in the form of higher prices.

Price inflation can also be seen in a slightly different form, where the price of a good is the same year-over-year (YOY) but the amount of the good received gradually decreases. For example, you may notice this in low-cost snack foods such as potato chips and chocolate bars, where the weight of the product gradually decreases, while the price remains the same.

Measuring Price Inflation

The consumer price index (CPI) is the most common measure of price inflation in the U.S. and is released monthly by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). Other measures for price inflation include the producer price index (PPI), which measures the increase in wholesale prices, and the employment cost index (ECI), which measures increases in wages in the labor market.

In May 2022, the Consumer Price Index increased 1.0% on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.3% in April. Over the last year, the index increased 8.6%.

How Price Inflation Is Used

Price inflation is a critical measure for central banks when setting monetary policy. When price inflation is rising at a faster pace than desired, a central bank will likely tighten monetary policy by increasing interest rates. In an ideal world, this would encourage savings through higher returns and slow spending, which would slow price inflation.

On the other hand, should inflation remain subdued over a period of time a central bank will loosen monetary policy by reducing interest rates. Cheaper borrowing costs are supposed to incentivize spending and investing activity, spurring demand and creating price inflation. In general, a price inflation rate of 2% in the U.S. is considered desirable.

What Is the Difference Between the Price Level and Inflation Rate?

The price level is prices of various goods and services. Inflation rate is the percentage change in price levels.

How Do You Calculate the Inflation Adjusted Price?

Prices are adjusted for inflation by dividing the price index for the current period by a previous period and then multiply that ratio by the unadjusted price. For example, the Consumer Price Index urban consumers (CPI-U) was 258.8 in 2020 and 271.0 in 2021. The price of the item you are adjusting for was $2,000 in 2020. The inflation adjusted price of this item would be (271.0 / 258.8) * $2,000, or $2,094.

What Is Asset Price Inflation?

Asset price inflation is the rise in financial and capital assets, such as stocks and real estate. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) excludes such assets.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Consumer Price Index Summary."

  2. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index, 1913-."

Take the Next Step to Invest
×
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.
Service
Name
Description