Annual inflation rate hit 6.7 per cent in March

OTTAWA — The annual rate of inflation hit 6.7 per cent in March, the fastest year-over-year increase in the consumer price index since January 1991, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.

The increase compared with gain of 5.7 per cent in February.

Fuelling much of the increase in March were higher prices at the pumps as gasoline prices rose 39.8 per cent compared with the same month one year earlier.

Statistics Canada said the consumer price index would have been up 5.5 per cent year-over-year if it had excluded gasoline from its calculations.

The agency noted price pressures remained widespread in March on the back of the country’s hot housing market, supply-chain constraints and the war in Ukraine that has affected prices for oil and food.

The agency said homeowner replacement costs, which includes prices for new home prices, rose 12.9 per cent year-over-year in March.

Grocery store prices rose 8.7 per cent year-over-year, the fastest annual rate since March 2009, aided by the largest annual increase in dairy and egg prices since February 1983.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was also blamed for jumps in pasta prices and cereal, the latter rising at the fastest annual pace since June 1990.

Russia and Ukraine are major wheat exporters.

Provincially, Statistics Canada said growth was most pronounced in Prince Edward Island where prices rose 8.9 per cent year-over-year.

As prices rose faster on an annual basis in March, average hourly wages were up by 3.4 per cent, but still far behind inflation and eating into consumers’ purchasing power.

The growing rate of inflation has spooked economists and central bankers amid signs that Canadians are beginning to expect inflation to stay higher for longer.

Last week, the Bank of Canada increased its key policy rate by half a percentage point, raising the benchmark interest rate to one per cent with warnings that more rate hikes are to come this year.

The average of the three core measures of inflation, which are considered better gauges of underlying price pressures and closely tracked by the Bank of Canada, was 3.77 per cent in March. That the highest recorded since March 1991 and up from the 3.53 per cent in February.