(WASHINGTON) — Inflation data to be released on Wednesday will show whether the U.S. economy extended a monthslong cooldown of price increases in June, offering further relief for consumers and welcome news for the Federal Reserve as it weighs an additional interest rate hike.
The fresh data arrives days after a government release indicated that hiring slowed last month but remained solid. The economy, the jobs report suggests, continued a gradual downshift in June amid a central bank effort to dial back activity and slash prices while averting a recession.
Consumer prices rose 4% in May compared to a year ago, dropping more than expected and bolstering hopes that inflation will return to normal levels. The latest reading, however, is still double the Federal Reserve’s inflation target of 2%.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect inflation to have fallen considerably in June to 3.1%, which would mark the lowest reading since March 2021.
The Fed is set to meet in roughly two weeks as it considers whether to escalate its fight against inflation with an additional rate hike.
Last month, the Fed paused an aggressive series of interest rate hikes, ending a string of 10 consecutive rate increases that stretched back 15 months.
However, nearly all members of the decision-making committee believe the central bank will need to impose at least one additional rate hike this year, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said immediately after the announcement of a pause.
In remarks late last month, Powell voiced an optimistic message about the U.S. economy and downplayed the threat of a recession.
“The U.S. economy has actually been quite resilient,” Powell said in Sentra, Portugal, at a conference organized by the European Central Bank.
While acknowledging that a recession is “certainly possible,” he said such an outcome is “not the most likely case.”
“The economy is resilient and still growing, albeit at a modest pace,” he added.
A major upward revision showed last Thursday that the U.S. economy grew significantly more at the outset of this year than an initial measurement indicated, according to the Commerce Department.
Gross domestic product increased at a 2% annualized rate for a three-month period ending in March — a sizable jump from the previous estimate of 1.3%.
A jobs report on Friday, meanwhile, showed that U.S. employers hired 209,000 workers in June, which marked robust performance, albeit a slowdown from the previous month.
Wage growth, assessed by workers’ average hourly earnings, remained unchanged at 4.4% compared to the same month a year prior. As part of its inflation fight, the Fed closely watches the pace of wage growth, since in theory employers raise prices to keep up with higher pay.
“The labor market is really pulling the economy,” Powell said late last month, before the release of hiring data for June. “It’s a very strong labor market.”
“In my view, the least unlikely case is that we do find a way to better balance without a severe downturn,” he added.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.