Food prices were flat for a second straight month in April, relief for many Americans who have faced higher costs at the grocery store in recent months.
That is a big improvement from February, when prices rose 0.4 percent over the month.
Prices for food at home fell 0.2 percent in April compared with the month before. Prices for food at restaurants continued to pick up, rising 0.4 percent over the month, a slight decline from 0.6 percent in March.
Despite the relief in food price growth, costs are still much higher than they were before the pandemic. Overall, food prices have climbed 7.7 percent over the last year.
Prices for fruits and vegetables decreased 0.5 percent over the month, and the index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs also declined 0.3 percent. Prices for milk fell 2 percent, the largest decline since February 2015. Egg prices, which spiked after an outbreak of avian influenza and the cost of fuel, feed and packaging rose, fell 1.5 percent after a 10.9 percent decline in March.
Prices for cereals and bakery products rose 0.2 percent, down from 0.6 percent the month before.
Food prices started shooting up about two years ago as the cost of labor, transportation and raw materials picked up. Other factors, such as the higher cost of marketing and packaging food products, have also resulted in companies passing along those increases to consumers. Weather-related events, such as extreme droughts in the Western United States, have diminished crop yields and pushed up supply costs.
Economists said food prices could be starting to moderate as labor pressures eased and wage growth across the industry slowed in recent months. Recent declines in fuel prices have also helped bring down transportation costs.
The prices that consumers pay for food at restaurants are typically slower to change because more labor costs are involved.
“Americans have had to face significantly higher costs for basic necessities,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo. “The fact that you’re seeing some easing here is really important for consumers.”
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