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Inflation in Montana: 2023 year in review and predictions for 2024

Money being printed
Posted at 3:28 PM, Dec 30, 2023
and last updated 2024-01-01 10:52:12-05

BILLINGS — As we near the new year, many are reflecting on 2023. One commonality seen this year across the nation was inflation and fluctuating prices.

"As I think of the economy in 2023, it’s kind of a choose-your-own-adventure,” said Darrell Ehrlick, the editor-in-chief for the Daily Montanan, on Saturday.

Darrell Ehrlick on Zoom
Darrell Ehrlick on Zoom

After a year of fluctuating prices, things are seemingly returning back to normal.

"We saw things like grocery items come back down," Ehrlick said. "Eggs, they’re back down."

The Consumer Price Index’s inflation forecast for 2024 shows a slight drop, with average consumer price inflation in 2023 reaching 4.1%, and in 2024, dropping to 3.8%. 2022 peaked at 9.59%.

Inflation forecast
Inflation forecast

"We kind of got some things under control with inflation,” Ehrlick said.

With 2024 being an election year, only time will tell what prices amount to.

"It will be interesting to see what happens,” Ehrlick said.

Voting
Voting

Ehrlick has covered numerous stories this year in Montana regarding inflation for the Daily Montanan.

"I think we were all surprised at how much people were talking about property taxes,” Ehrlick said. “What I see as a journalist is that there’s a real disconnect. People are saying, and maybe national reporting is, the economy’s great. But I think when you’re maybe in the field level, there’s a disconnect there. I think that probably those are good hints as to where the stories will take us in 2024. It’s trying to bridge that chasm."

The hot topics in Montana: property taxes, affordable housing, and energy rate increases.

"For Montanans, residential property taxes and housing. And then the other thing that I think you have to marry with that is energy costs,” Ehrlick said. "We saw large rate increases at the Public Service Commission. We saw both an electric and gas increase. But this property tax issue in Montana, especially, has a really long tail."

Annual change in property tax
Annual change in property tax

He’s personally noticed some of the high prices for consumers at the grocery store.

"I am addicted to Diet Pepsi, so I think that is stubbornly high,” Ehrlick said.

Being a homeowner, Ehrlick knows firsthand where some of the frustrations with property taxes lie.

"I think everybody’s so focused on the presidential election or even the Tester election. I think if we’re looking at Montana, what’s going to happen here in the Treasure State, I think that’s going to be really fought at the local legislative level,” Ehrlick said.

But he’s also putting himself in the shoes of legislators.

"I’m sympathetic because I ask, what can they do? (The legislators are) not pouring concrete or framing houses. So, what do you do?” Ehrlick said.

Pricetags
Pricetags

Ehrlick is looking forward to the conversations to be had in the new year.

"There’s going to be a lot of talk about property taxes, there’s going to be a lot of talk about Medicaid," Ehrlick said. "I think that there is going to be an overall national conversation about inflation, about wage."

For now, he's celebrating the low costs we’ve reached at the end of 2023.

"If people’s checkbooks feel comfortable to them, they’re probably going to be happy," Ehrlick said. "Regardless of some of the other stuff that’s going on in the world."

To learn more about the Consumer Price Index's inflation forecast, click here.

Money being printed
Money being printed