Consumer prices were higher in March, given a boost by a strong economic recovery and year-over-year comparisons to a time when the pandemic was about to throttle the U.S. economy. The consumer price index rose 0.6% from the previous month but 2.6% from the same period a year ago. The year-over-year gain is the highest since August 2018. Gasoline prices were the biggest contributor to the monthly gain, surging 9.1% in March and responsible for about half the overall CPI increase. Gasoline is up 22.5% from a year ago.
Optimism among small-business owners in the U.S. continued to rise in March on the back of the passage of the American Rescue Plan and the easing of Covid restrictions in many states. The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index came in at 98.2 in March, up 2.4 points from the previous month. March posts the second straight month of increases for the index. However, it is still below the 104.5 level registered in February 2020, before the pandemic first hit the U.S.
Oregon’s jobless rate dropped slightly in March, according to new data out from the Oregon Employment Department, falling a tenth of a percentage point to 6.0%. Oregon added 20,000 jobs last month. Most of the gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector as bars and restaurants steadily reopened after a broad wintertime shutdown. The state has now regained 54% of the jobs lost in the early days of the pandemic, 153,100 altogether.