It is likely that the president was referring to the month-over-month change from June 2022 to July 2022, which was indeed 0%. However, the year-over-year change from July 2021 to July 2022 was a hefty 8.5%.
In a White house press briefing held on Aug. 10, 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden said that “the economy had zero percent inflation in the month of July .”
It was a shot heard 'round the economy, prompting coverage by a number of media publications, some of which proclaimed Biden a front-runner for “Liar of the Year." The statement was also technically true, if somewhat misleading.
As was reported by The New York Times: “Zero is the change in prices in July from one month earlier, while 8.5 percent is the change in prices from one year earlier.” In short, Biden appeared to be referencing the one-month change (or lack thereof) from June to July 2022, not the one-year change from July 2022 to July 2021.
“Before I begin today, I want to say a word about the news that came out today relative to the economy. Actually, I just want to say a number: zero. Today, we received news that our economy had zero percent inflation in the month of July. Zero percent,” said Biden at a press briefing at The White House on August 10, 2022, according to transcripts that our newsroom read through. The briefing was held in response to the president’s signing of the PACT Act.
“Here’s what that means: While the price of some things go up — went up last month, the price of other things went down by the same amount. The result: zero inflation last month. But people are hurting. But zero inflation last month.”
Perhaps more to the point is what figure — the one-month or one-year rate — is a more accurate descriptor of the state of the economy. According to a report released on the same day by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is true that the one-month inflation rate -- aka Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers -- from June to July 2022 was 0%.
“The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) was unchanged in July on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 1.3 percent in June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 8.5 percent before seasonal adjustment,” read the report.
Inflation measures the rate of price increases of certain items, explained the International Monetary Fund. In particular, the CPI-U measures the “monthly change in consumer prices for a representative basket of goods and services,” noted Investopedia.
While the CPI-U may have been unchanged over the one-month period, that’s not to say that all items saw a decrease in price. The food index, for example, increased 1.1% in July, marking the seventh consecutive monthly increase of .9% or more. Nonalcoholic beverages rose 2.3% while coffee saw an uptick of 3.5%. Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs, as well as dairy and fruits and vegetables, also saw noticeable increases over the last month.
That said, it remains true that the annual inflation rate, as reflected in the overall change in consumer prices from July 2021 to July 2022, was a hefty 8.5%.