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EDITORIAL: Examining the slowing rate of inflation

The news is not necessarily as positive as it first appears

The rate of inflation has slowed to less than three per cent, according to the most recent figures released by Statistics Canada.

The figures, released on Feb. 20, showed the rate of inflation at 2.9 per cent in January, down from 3.4 per cent in December.

At first glance, this appears to be positive news, especially when compared with the significantly higher inflation rates recorded in 2022. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to the announcement as good news, and others are likely relieved that the rate of inflation is trending downward.

However, the news is not necessarily as positive as it first appears.

Prices are continuing to rise, and unless income levels rise at the same rate, consumers will need to make some difficult decisions as they deal with higher prices.

The rate of inflation is not the same in all categories.

The largest contributor to the lower inflation rate in January was a four per cent drop in gasoline prices. Gasoline prices tend to be volatile and can rise and fall faster than other prices for consumers. There is no guarantee these prices will remain steady in the coming days or weeks.

If gasoline prices are excluded, the Consumer Price Index rose by 3.2 per cent in January, down from 3.5 per cent in December. Again, this is much easier to handle than the higher figures recorded in 2022, but it still represents an increase in prices for consumers.

Grocery prices increased by 3.4 per cent annually in January. This is lower than the 4.7 per cent annual rate from December, but it is still significant.

Airfare prices fell by 23.7 per cent from December to January. Clothing and footwear prices fell by 3.2 per cent.

The latest figures on the rate of inflation are important and could show an important downward trend. However, a single month does not tell the complete story.

What happens in the next few months will show more accurately whether the rate of inflation is truly trending downward, or whether the January numbers are simply an anomaly.

— Black Press