Tue. 10:10 pm: From rents to haircuts, Americans start to feel price hikes

WASHINGTON – Apartment rents are up. So are prices for restaurant meals, haircuts, gym memberships and a cup of coffee.

For American consumers who have become used to flat or even falling prices for several years, an unfamiliar sight has emerged in many corners of the economy: Inflation is ticking up.

The price increases remain modest. And in many cases, they’re canceled out by price declines for other items that are keeping overall inflation historically low.

Yet the stepped-up price tags for a range of consumer items are the largest since the Great Recession ended six years ago. They actually reflect a healthier economy: Many businesses have finally grown confident enough to pass their own higher costs on to consumers without fear of losing customers. Employers have added nearly 5.6 million jobs the past two years, allowing more people to absorb higher prices.

Signs of emergent inflation are a key reason the Federal Reserve, which is meeting this week, will likely raise interest rates from record lows later this year. Inflation has long trailed the Fed’s 2 percent target rate but is on track to return to that level in coming months.

“That should give the Fed a little more confidence that … they will meet their (inflation) objective,” said Laura Rosner, an economist at BNP Paribas.

In June, the price of haircuts jumped 1.6 percent, the biggest monthly jump in the 62 years that the government has tracked the data. Over the past year, they’ve surged 2.8 percent, the largest year-over-year gain since 2008.