Bay Area gasoline prices stay sky-high: COVID economy snapshot

Bay Area gasoline prices stay sky-high: COVID economy snapshot

Gasoline prices in the Bay Area rocketed to a sky-high level during September, according to a new government report released on Wednesday, a forbidding hint that inflation continues to haunt the region.

Bay Area prices for unleashed gasoline soared by a whopping 35.2% over the one-year period that ended in September, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday. The increase is based on a price index compiled by the federal agency.

So far in 2021, gasoline prices have zoomed 36.4% higher, this news organization’s analysis of the federal report shows.

The overall inflation rate for the Bay Area wasn’t released Wednesday by the government. The federal labor agency releases the Bay Area consumer prices report every other month. The next comprehensive report for Bay Area inflation is scheduled for sometime in November.

The current jump in gasoline prices results from more than a comparison to the severely depressed gas prices for most of 2020 and early 2021.

The collapse of economic activity and driving vehicles triggered much of the nosedive in Bay Area gasoline prices during 2020.

In 2021, gasoline prices began to rise with the upswing in economic activity and vehicle trips. But the modest increase of early 2021 has turned into a prolonged surge that could help fuel widespread inflation.

Some experts point out that it’s no surprise that 2021 gas prices are elevated compared with 2020 since prices last year plummeted due to the coronavirus.

But that same argument can’t be made when comparing 2021 to 2019. The year 2019 is deemed to be relevant because that was the last full year that the economy was healthy and free of coronavirus-linked ailments.

Gasoline prices in the Bay Area during 2021 are far elevated compared to gas prices posted in similar months during 2019.

Bay Area gas prices in September were 20.2% above September 2019. The August gasoline price index was 22.6% higher than in August 2019. The July index showed a two-year increase of 16.1%.

The average gas price in the Bay Area so far this year is the highest since 2013, according to an analysis of the labor agency’s price index.

About the only good news in the current gas price report from the federal government: The annual increase of 35.2% for September wasn’t quite as severe as the yearly pace for some prior months in 2021.

The annual increase in gasoline prices was 36.9% in August, 38.4% in July, 41.6% in June and 46.3% in May. May represented the highest annual increase for any month so far during 2021.


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