(Bloomberg) -- A 60% surge in prices at the gasoline pump was a key driver last month in sending US inflation to the fastest pace in more than 40 years, spreading pain across the economy.

The average national retail price of gasoline surpassed $5 a gallon for the first time in June before retreating in the past few weeks. On a monthly basis, the spike in energy prices accounted for nearly half of all the overall gains in the consumer price index, which jumped 1.3% from May and a whopping 9.1% from a year ago, Labor Department data released Wednesday showed. The gasoline index surged 11.2% from the prior month, while the annual increase was the largest since March 1980.

Soaring gasoline prices have become a political problem for US President Joe Biden, who has lobbied allies in the Middle East to increase their crude output while also tapping into the nation’s strategic reserves in an effort to cool rising energy costs. In his visit to Saudi Arabia this week, Biden will discuss the global energy crisis and the potential of increasing production.

For American households, inflation expectations are “strongly correlated” with gasoline prices as pump prices remain one of the most salient and visible ways to track rising costs, said Carola Binder, an economics professor at Haverford College.

“Everyone pretty much keeps track of what’s going on with gas prices, because you can hardly avoid seeing them as you drive around,” Binder said. “So they have a really strong influence on consumer inflation expectations.”

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