The perspective held by many economic policymakers, including Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, was that the spring rise in inflation was due primarily to base effects and temporary supply-and-demand mismatches, so the impact would be mostly “transitory.”5 Regardless, some prices won’t fall back to their former levels once they have risen, and even short-lived bursts of inflation can be painful for consumers.
Some economists fear that inflation may last longer, with more serious consequences, and could become difficult to control. This camp believes that loose monetary policies by the central bank and trillions of dollars in government stimulus have pumped an excess supply of money into the economy. In this scenario, a booming economy and persistent and/or substantial inflation could result in a self-reinforcing feedback loop in which businesses, faced with less competition and expecting higher costs in the future, raise their prices preemptively, prompting workers to demand higher wages.6
Until recently, inflation had consistently lagged the Fed’s 2% target, which it considers a healthy rate for a growing economy, for more than a decade. In August 2020, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced that it would allow inflation to rise moderately above 2% for some time in order to create a 2% average rate over the longer term. This signaled that economists anticipated short-term price swings and assured investors that Fed officials would not overreact by raising interest rates before the economy has fully healed.7
In mid-June 2021, the FOMC projected core PCE inflation to be 3.0% in 2021 and 2.1% in 2022. The benchmark federal funds range was expected to remain at 0.0% to 0.25% until 2023.8 However, Fed officials have also said they are watching the data closely and could raise interest rates sooner, if needed, to cool the economy and curb inflation.
Projections are based on current conditions, are subject to change, and may not come to pass.
1, 3) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021; 2) The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021; 4) U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2021; 5-6) Bloomberg.com, May 2, 2021; 7-8) Federal Reserve, 2020-2021