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Today’s report from the Labor Department on the September inflation figures contained something for everyone, and unfortunately, that’s not great news for anyone trying to figure out whether current price rises are going to continue worrisomely for the foreseeable future, or whether they’re “transitory.” That’s the term that’s been used by Federal Reserve officials in particular to describe their expectations that these trends result mainly from pandemic-related supply chain and other economic disruptions, and will return to normal territory once the CCP Virus is clearly under control.

The inflation pessimists can point to accelerations in all four main measures of inflation reported today. On a monthly basis, the overall consumer price index (CPI), rose by 0.41 percent on month in September versus 0.27 percent in August, and the so-called core measure – which strips out unusually volatile food and energy prices, increased sequentially by 0.24 percent, versus August’s 0.10 percent

The year-on-year figures, which are more closely followed because they cover a longer time span and therefore are less vulnerable to inevitable random fluctuations – told much the same story. The overall CPI was up 5.38 percent in September as opposed to 5.20 percent in August, and the core climbed from 3.98 percent to 4.04 percent.

Many transitory-istas (who include yours truly) can and no doubt will take some comfort from the lower core figures. But pessimists will rightly observe that, however subject to wide swings, food and energy are vital to all the rest of the economy, and if their prices are on a rapidly moving escalator up, the effects are sure to spread in numerous other sectors.

I’m more impressed by the still-waning momentum in both inflation gauges. It’s evident from the monthly changes in the overall CPI so far this year. Despite the sequential speed up this month, these price increases are still nowhere their spring peaks. In fact, they’re still down on net since July.

Dec-Jan:                           0.26 percent

Jan-Feb:                           0.35 percent

Feb-March:                      0.62 percent

March-April:                   0.77 percent

April-May:                      0.64 percent

May-June:                       0.90 percent

June-July:                        0.47 percent

July-Aug:                        0.27 percent

Aug-Sept:                        0.41 percent

The monthly core changes look very similar:

Dec-Jan:                         0.03 percent

Jan-Feb:                         0.10 percent

Feb-March:                    0.34 percent

March-April:                  0.92 percent

April-May:                     0.74 percent

May-June:                      0.88 percent

June-July:                      0.33 percent

July-Aug:                      0.10 percent

Aug-Sept.                      0.24 percent

The case for acceleration looks stronger based on the year-on-year overall CPI changes, although a plateauing since May can be seen as well.

Jan:                                1.37 percent

Feb:                               1.68 percent

March:                           2.64 percent

April:                             4.15 percent

May:                              4.93 percent

June:                              5.32 percent

July:                               5.28 percent

Aug:                               5.20 percent

Sept:                               5.38 percent

Ditto for the annual core inflation increases:

Jan:                                1.40 percent

Feb:                               1.28 percent

March:                          1.65 percent

April:                            2.96 percent

May:                             3.80 percent

June:                             4.45 percent

July:                              4.24 percent

Aug:                              3.98 percent

Sept:                              4.04 percent

And it’s still true that these strong overall CPI and core inflation results stem partly from abnormally weak inflation in 2020, when the virus dramatically depressed inflation according to both measures. Here are the 2019-20 figures for the overall CPI:

Jan:                               2.47 percent

Feb:                              2.31 percent

March:                         1.51 percent

April:                           0.34 percent

May:                            0.22 percent

June:                            0.73 percent

July:                            1.05 percent

Aug:                            1.32 percent

Sept:                            1.41 percent

And here they are for the core:

Jan:                              2.26 percent

Feb:                             2.36 percent

March:                         2.10 percent

April:                          1.44 percent

May:                           1.24 percent

June:                           1.20 percent

July:                           1.56 percent

Aug:                           1.70 percent

Sept:                           1.72 percent

All the same (and I realize I’m starting to sound like the proverbial two-handed economist), the pessimists can point out that the 2020 annual inflation rates began rebounding once again. And because these “comps” have become harder to beat, the case for troubling, lasting inflation has become more compelling.

I’d agree with the “more compelling” conclusion. But to me, that still doesn’t translate into “particularly compelling.” Until it does, I’ll stay in the transitory camp – keeping in mind all the while that, as noted last month, the likely timeframe for the return to normality keeps getting stretched out.