Annual CPI inflation reached 9.1 percent in June 2022, the highest reading since November 1981. The broad-based nature of the recent inflation readings has increased concerns that inflation may run above the Federal Reserve’s target for a longer period than anticipated. In this post we use detailed industry-level data to examine two prominent cost-push-based explanations for high inflation: rising import prices and higher labor costs. We find that the pass-through of wages and input prices to the U.S. Producer Price Index has grown during the pandemic. Both the large changes in these costs and a higher pass-through into domestic prices have contributed toward higher inflation.
When inflation is high, companies may raise prices to keep up. However, market watchers and journalists have wondered if corporations have taken advantage of high inflation to increase corporate profits. We look at this question through the lens of public companies, finding that in general, increased prices in an industry are often associated with increasing corporate profits. However the current relationship between inflation and profit growth is not unusual in the historical context.