Inflation cools in July; even lower rates predicted
Washington — Inflation, after an early summer upturn, is now continuing its descent into the single digits. Analysts foresee a further reduction in inflationary pressures through the fall.
''We'll see some spectacularly low inflation figures over the next couple of months,'' predicts Jerry Jasinowski, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers.
''I look for further moderation in prices,'' agrees David Jones, vice-president at bond dealers Aubrey Lanston.
Like a specter from the past, double-digit inflation reappeared in May and June. Pushed by rising oil prices, the consumer price index (CPI) rose at an annual rate of 12 percent for the month of May, and 13.3 percent for June.
But inflation cooled considerably in July. The CPI rose 0.6 percent for the month, the Labor Department said Aug. 24. That translates to an annual inflation rate of 7.3 percent for the month.
For all of 1981, the CPI rose 8.9 percent.
Analysts see July as a month of transition leading to yet-lower monthly inflation figures.
''We thought all along that the two-month increase was a temporary phenomenon ,'' says Leonard Lempert, director of Statistical Indicator Associates.
In the months ahead, falling housing costs and relatively stable oil prices will exert a moderating influence on inflation, say analysts.
For all of 1982, consumer prices are likely to rise by less than 6 percent, according to an estimate in a Chase Manhattan Bank publication. Mr. Jones of Aubrey Lanston predicts '82 prices will rise between 7 and 7.5 percent - partly because the economy will remain mired in recession through next year.
And as short-term inflationary pressures abate, the underlying ''core'' rate of inflation (the annual rise in labor and capital costs) is slowing its growth. ''The core inflation rate is being slowly eroded,'' says Mr. Jasinowski.
Labor costs are growing more slowly. In the second quarter of 1982, hourly compensation rose at an annual rate of 7.1 percent, according to Manufacturers Hanover Bank - the smallest rise in four years.
The outlook for productivity growth is brightening, a picture that could further lessen ''core'' inflationary pressures. (As each employee produces more, per-unit labor costs go down.) Private business productivity increased at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the second quarter of this year. Though hardly a strong gain, any indication that productivity is growing at all cheers many economists, as the measure seldom increases during a recession. When economic recovery takes hold, productivity historically kicks in with a strong increase.
In the final analysis, as David Jones says, ''Reagan's legacy could be disinflation.'' But the price of lower inflation has been high unemployment, says Jones, a condition he feels could have been avoided through a tighter fiscal policy and a looser grip on the money supply.