US consumer prices dropped by the most since the Great Recession in April, weighed down by a plunge in demand for gasoline and services including airline travel as people stayed home during the coronavirus crisis.
The Labor Department said on Tuesday its consumer price index tumbled 0.8 percent last month after falling 0.4 percent in March. That was the largest decline since December 2008 when the economy was in the throes of a recession, and marked the second straight monthly decrease in the CPI.
In the 12 months through April, the CPI gained 0.3 percent after increasing 1.5 percent in March.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the CPI falling 0.8 percent in April and rising 0.4 percent year-on-year.
The Labor Department said in-store data collection has been suspended since March 16, because of risks of exposure to Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
The department added that data collection last month was also impacted "by the temporary closing or limited operations of certain types of establishments," leading to "an increase in the number of prices being considered temporarily unavailable and imputed." That resulted in many indexes being based on smaller amounts of collected prices than usual, and a small number of indexes that are normally published were not published in April
Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI dropped 0.4 percent in April, the largest decline since the series started in 1957. The so-called core CPI dipped 0.1 percent in March, which was the first drop since January 2010.
In the 12 months through April, the core CPI rose 1.4 percent after advancing 2.1 percent in March.
The Federal Reserve tracks the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index for its 2 percent inflation target. The core PCE price index increased 1.7 percent year-on-year in March after rising 1.8 percent in February. April's core PCE price index data will be released at the end of the month.