This increase has been fuelled by an increase in consumer spending as the British public comes out of lockdown.
Meanwhile, clothing prices jumped by 2.3%, the biggest rise since 2018, as the country’s retailers significantly reduced their discounting a month after reopening their stores.
However, the 2.1% rate is now above the Bank of England’s 2% target for inflation and will lead to discussions about whether it’s time to raise interest rates.
Grant Fitzner, the ONS’ chief economist, said: “The rate of inflation rose again in May and is now above 2% for the first time since the summer of 2019.
“This month’s rise was led by fuel prices, which fell this time last year but have jumped this year, thanks to rising crude prices. Clothing prices also added upward pressure as the amount of discounting fell in May.”
Martin Beck, senior economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, said: “CPI inflation data revealed a surprising increase in May, accelerating to 2.1% from 1.5% in April. This was a 22-month high.
“The main sources of the upside surprise were rises in prices in the clothing and recreation and culture categories, both of which have been prone to significant month-to-month volatility, particularly through the pandemic when price changes have not followed typical seasonal patterns.”
He added: “Alongside this, rising petrol prices were also a key factor, partly due to the recent rise in the price of oil and partly reflecting the strength of base effects caused by the fall in petrol prices last spring.”