Oh, the days when a glass of beer cost 45 cents, and you could drive a gas-guzzling Cadillac across the country for less than your entire life savings. Thanks to inflation, the power of the dollar just isn’t the same as when your parents were growing up.
Inflation is a fascinating thing to study over time, and the statistical data is comprehensive and available. Understanding it, however, can be a little bit confusing. We’ve compiled a complete list of inflation statistics to paint the big picture of this important economic phenomenon.
Top Stats and Facts About Inflation: Editor’s Selection
- The Producer Price Index (PPI) rose by 71.8% from 1990 to 2019
- Between 1967 and 2020, the average cost for car repair and maintenance grew by 898.71%
- Today’s dollar has 9% of the 1950 dollar’s buying power
- In 1968, the federal minimum wage was $10.59 in today’s dollars
- March 2021 prices were 4.2% higher than those of March 2019
- The $17.25 minimum wage should raise to $15 by 2025
- The highest inflation rate in the United States’ history was 29.78% in 1860
What is Inflation?
Inflation has everything to do with how much bang you can get for your buck. Over time, the prices of basic or common goods slowly rise in an economy, making the value of a dollar go down. The change is often almost unnoticeable from year to year, but over time it becomes quite obvious.
In a healthy economy, this correlates with a slow rise in working wages to accommodate for the change in spending power. If the inflation rate is too high, the cost of living becomes too expensive and results in higher unemployment rates and low wages.
Inflation Statistics: The Reduction of Spending Power
1. From 1990 to 2019, the Producer Price Index (PPI) rose by 71.8%.
The Producer Price Index is the measurement of price changes from the supplier perspective of the economy, such as how much goods cost for manufacturers and businesses to produce. As such, the PPI directly impacts the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the changes in prices from the perspective of the consumer.
PPI and inflation rate facts reveal that between 1990 and 2019, the PPI ballooned from 116.3 to 199.8, which is an increase of over 70%. The growth has been more or less gradual but ultimately quite significant.
2. Excluding food and energy, the price index for all items increased monthly by 0.7% in May 2021.
(Bureau of Labor Statistics)
As of May 2021, the price index for all items, excluding energy and food, saw a 12-month increase of 3.8%. According to labor statistics on inflation, this is the biggest increase seen in almost 30 years.
Nothing compares to the energy index of this year, with an increase of 28.5% in just the last 12-months, indicating that while the price of basic goods increased at a steady rate, commodities like gas, electricity, and water were steep for consumers this year.
3. The average cost for car repair and maintenance increased by 898.71% between 1967 and 2020.
The auto industry was never very good at remaining stable under inflation. In many cases, it falls into stalled productions and higher prices. This is reflected in the auto repair industry inflation statistics gathered throughout the decades past.
Since 1967, the average price for repairing or maintaining a car in the United States has climbed by 898.71%. A service that once cost $500 will knock almost $5,000 out of your wallet.
4. Today’s dollar is worth only 9% of a 1950 dollar.
(Bureau of Labor Statistics)
The inflation rate directly impacts the spending power of one dollar. Since goods and services gradually go up in price, and (hopefully) wages do as well, the value of a dollar changes over time.
Our interesting fact about inflation is that $1 in 1950 was worth almost ten times as much as $1 in 2021. To be more precise, the modern dollar has just 9% of the buying power once wielded by the old dollar. To give even more perspective, $27 worth of groceries today could be bought with a single dollar in 1913.
Inflation can be almost unnoticeable from year to year, but when seen over the last 100 years, its pretty profound.
Minimum Wage Inflation Statistics
Wages are directly correlated to inflation. If the economy is functioning properly, when inflation rates go up, the minimum wage will also increase, allowing consumers to keep up with the growing rate.
If salaries are high and the cost of goods is low, the economy will boom, as consumers can spend more money and support more economic pursuits in the country.
With this in mind, the dollar’s value must also adjust for the minimum earning power of citizens.
5. The federal minimum wage in 1968 was $10.59 in current dollars.
The minimum wage has slowly risen over the decades, but Inflation statistics indicate that it hasn’t risen with the same rate of inflation. In 1968, the minimum wage was 46% higher than today’s minimum wage, with an equivalence of $22 an hour!
Today’s minimum wage stagnates at $7.25, while the cost of basic goods and services continues to rise.
6. College prices were over 200% higher in 2019 than they had been in 1989.
Wages in the US increasingly depend on access to higher education and college tuition fees have also been steadily rising over the decades. By looking at college inflation statistics, the rate of increase is actually quite jarring.
The average annual increase in tuition price in 2019-2020 was $200 (in 2019 dollars). In contrast, the average price rise in 1989-1990 was $170. Meanwhile, the period from 1999 to 2009 saw an average tuition increase of $330 per year.
Concerns over rising student debt and the ability for college graduates to enter into gainful employment is a prominent one in today’s economy.
7. In 2020, 65% of all jobs in the US required proof of post-secondary education or training beyond high school.
(Center for Education and the Workforce)
Statistics about inflation of college degree tuitions correlate to issues about minimum wage. Degree inflation is a result of various economic factors. In times of recession, unemployment rises while the number of employers remains roughly the same.
Employers increase qualification criteria as a way of excluding applicants without spending money, usually by requiring a college degree.
This results in higher qualifications for low-level jobs that don’t pay enough to account for the tuition cost to achieve that job. If minimum wage doesn’t accommodate the need for higher education to access basic employment options, the quality of life for citizens and the economy begin to go down.
Positive Inflation Statistics
Discussing inflation can cause a lot of panic, but it is a necessary (and implicit) part of a growing economy. What matters most is maintaining a standard inflation rate that is in sync with an economy’s employment and wage statistics.
8. 2% is the ideal inflation rate.
Considering that inflation impacts the spending power of the population (which essentially fuels the economy), there is an ideal rate in which it can and should function.
This golden zone, as ascertained by so many annual inflation statistics, is 2% per year. The United States has been hovering slightly below this benchmark in recent years until the impact of COVID-19 on the economy in 2020.
If the inflation rate is too high, it causes a decline in the quality of life of citizens due to increased poverty and debt. If it is too low, however, it signals a stagnant economy, which often results in lower wages and less production of goods.
9. Prices in May 2021 were 5% than the year before.
The official inflation statistics for the US after the year 2020 show that inflation has risen quite quickly, with the biggest increase occurring since the recession in 2008. Although it peaked a lot of concern in an already difficult situation, the economy has remained surprisingly stable.
In context, an inflation rate of 5% means that a gallon of gas that cost $2 last year now costs $2.10 this year, a much higher jump than the usual few cents.
10. In 2022, inflation will likely be at an average of 2.0%.
Despite the uncertainty of the past year, national inflation statistics predict rates to stabilize. Experts project an optimal inflation rate for 2022 of around 2%. This balances the recovery of the market after quarantine in 2021, which held an inflation rate of 1.8%.
It may seem beneficial to have a low inflation rate, as it means the cost of goods are low and Americans have more buying power. Low inflation rates can be an indicator of recession, however, as production often slows, and it can cause shortages in markets, employment lay-offs, and drops in investment portfolios.
11. By 2025, minimum wage will grow from $7.25 to $15.
Government inflation statistics show that while inflation has increased at a relatively standard rate over the last few decades, minimum wage has not. It is now documented that due to inflation, minimum wage workers make almost $3 less than workers did in the 1960s.
Raising the minimum wage may stimulate the inflation rate. Still, it allows the vast majority of the working population to contribute spending to the economy and meet their basic needs of shelter, food, and health services.
Historical US Inflation Facts
12. The highest inflation rate in US history was 29.78%.
The inflation rate in the United States keeps an average range of 2-3%. There have been a few exceptions, however. The highest inflation rate in the country almost touched 30% in 1778, just two years after the founding of the United States.
13. During the Great Depression, the CPI plummeted by almost 25%.
(Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)
According to the Great Depression inflation statistics, the unemployment rate soared aggressively from 3% to an excess of 25% due to the stock market crash of 1929.
14. The lowest inflation rate in US history was -15.80%.
Deflation occurs when the inflation rate is extremely low or even inverse. It seems that this could be a good thing, as the value of money becomes extremely high, giving consumers increased spending power, but usually, it foretells recession.
Most experts well-versed in asset inflation history and statistics are aware that high deflation rates can create a lot of trouble, disrupting housing markets and lowering salaries, to name a few.
The Great Depression witnessed the most dramatic deflation in U.S. history. It is believed that a surplus of productivity led to that figure, reducing demand and increasing the value of money in return.
15. The American Civil War would’ve cost $22 Trillion if it happened today.
Major historical events can reveal many inflation facts due to their large impact and prevalent data. The cost of the Civil War in the United States reached all corners of the country. The inflation cost can be calculated by evaluating the overall usage of the GDP.
Without considering all the more profound economic repercussions from wartime, the American Civil War cost $6.7 billion in1860, translating to about $22 trillion today.
Looking at inflation statistics over time paints a picture of the American economy that points to places of great success and also places for improvement for society as a whole. When inflation is stable and maintains a steady rate, the economy is healthy and provides opportunities for citizens to maintain reasonable standards of living. When the rate becomes unbalanced, however, it can be a brilliant indicator of an impending recession.
Equipping yourself with a better understanding of what inflation is, how it works, and what it indicates can be a great tool in preparing for the future, no matter what the economy is doing.
People Also Ask
There are two primary causes of inflation: demand-pull and cost-push inflation.
In demand-pull inflation, there is a high demand for products, and as such, consumers are willing to pay higher prices for them, despite their unchanging value. This drives costs up and reflects in the inflation rate. In cost-push inflation, which is less likely to occur, the supply of goods is for some reason limited, but the demand for them is not, driving prices up.
Other less influential factors on inflation are increased wages, and also the expectation of inflation can even affect it, encouraging consumers to purchase goods quickly rather than waiting.
Inflation is an inevitable part of any economy, and when it holds a consistent and stable rate, it can indicate a healthy and growing economy.
If the rate of inflation climbs too quickly, however, individual citizens lose spending power and can even struggle to afford basic things like shelter, energy, and food. Consequently, If the rate deflates, it is also not good, indicating a possible economic recession.
Though a single item doesn’t provide an accurate picture of inflation in general, a simple example can make the concept.
For instance, one loaf of white bread cost 59 cents in January of 1988. In contrast, the stats indicate that the same amount of white bread cost $1.42 in January 2013. This showcases an inflation rate of 140% over the last 35 years.
The three kinds of inflation are:
- demand-pull inflation
- cost-push inflation
- built-in inflation
The average inflation rate worldwide in 2020 was 2.99%. This rate is expected to rise next year, amounting to 3.29%.
The increase in inflation is likely due to the coronavirus pandemic. The economic backlash spurred by lockdowns and social distancing has disrupted the global economy.
Of course, different countries are dealing with varying rates of inflation. For example, the rate in the United Kingdom is 2.7%, while it’s 11.1% in Turkey.
In the last ten years, the inflation rate in the US oscillated around an average of about 2%. It consistently held a range of 1.6% to 1.8%.
One of the biggest outliers, however, was 2011, when inflation peaked at 3%. The year 2020 also brought an alarming inflation rate of 5% due to the economic crisis following the pandemic. At the moment of writing, 2021 has an admirable rate of around 1.8%, a surprising recovery from a turbulent previous year.
Inflation is an equal-opportunity friend and foe in most cases. There is one instance of benefit, however. In the case of borrowers, inflation can be a benefit because the cost of their debt remains the same while their wages most likely increase.
Currently, the inflation rate for the US is 1.8%. This is a remarkable rate considering the turbulent political and economic climate of the last year and a half.
With the economy experiencing pressure due to lockdowns and business closures, many predicted that inflation would explode.
Despite these expectations, the United States is pushing through with inflation statistics for 2021, anticipating a rate of 2.24%.