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May 2021 Consumer Price Index Shows Fastest Inflation Since 2008

That chip shortage, which arose from factory shutdowns during the pandemic and one-off problems like a drought in Taiwan, could take time to resolve but it should prove to be temporary. In a sign that companies are finding a way to adjust to the global shortage, General Motors said earlier in June that it would start to increase shipments of pickup trucks and other vehicles to dealers.

Airfares demonstrate another trend. Few people were flying for vacation or work last spring, depressing prices. As people return to the skies, the data shows a big surge in prices, even though that particular price index has yet to fully return to its pre-pandemic level.

Such effects should fade with time. Economists are instead parsing the data for signs that price increases will prove longer lasting. For example, two measures of housing costs that make up a big share of the inflation reading, but which move slowly, shot higher in May. Economists pay close attention to those metrics — rent and what’s known as owners’ equivalent rent, which tries to capture how much owned houses would cost as rentals.

“We are getting an earlier rebound than what we were envisioning — that’s significant,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, also a founding partner at MacroPolicy Perspectives, speaking on the same call as Ms. Coronado. But Ms. Rosner said she also expected the pressures on other goods and services prices to fade.

Yoram Weinreich, a founder of a furniture company called Simpli Home that sells dining room tables and T.V. consoles both direct-to-consumer and via online retailers like Wayfair and Amazon, has already raised prices this year. He said he was planning a “mid-double-digit” increase — around 15 percent for some products — in the coming months.

The pandemic era has been a wild ride for Mr. Weinreich. He had expected demand to slump last spring but it surged instead, as consumers stuck at home and with stimulus funds in their pockets bought furniture. Factories in Asia and Brazil couldn’t keep pace with the burst of new orders. Now, international shipping costs have skyrocketed, and it’s hard to get containers at any price.

“It was getting used to the new demand, then it was factory capacity, and now you can’t get containers,” he said, explaining that he expects prices to remain elevated at least through the Chinese New Year in February, thanks to the shipping cycle. “Consumers are going to have some massive sticker shock in the short term, and how much will it come down?”

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