The figure, up from 9% in April, was in line with the consensus of a Reuters survey of economists. Historical reports from the Office for National Statistics show inflation in May was the highest since March 1982 and is likely to get worse.
“Because the economic outlook is so unclear, no one knows how high inflation can be and how long it will last, which makes judgments about fiscal and monetary policy especially difficult,” said Jack Leslie, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank.
Earlier Wednesday, the Resolution Foundation said the hit to the cost of living for households was exacerbated by Brexit, which has made Britain a more closed economy, with devastating long-term effects on productivity and wages.
The general inflation rate in Great Britain in May was higher than in the USA, France, Germany and Italy. While Japan and Canada have yet to release May consumer price data, they are unlikely to be close.
The Bank of England said last week that inflation is likely to stay above 9% in the coming months before peaking just above 11% in October when regulated household electricity bills rise again.
The British government was doing everything it could to fight the rise in prices, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said after the release of the data.
Food and non-alcoholic beverage prices rose 8.7% year-on-year in May, the biggest jump since March 2009 and making the category the biggest contributor to last month’s annual inflation.
General consumer prices rose 0.7% m/m in May, slightly more than the consensus estimate of 0.6%, according to the ONS.
British factory prices – a key determinant of the prices consumers later paid in stores – were 22.1% higher in May than a year earlier, the biggest rise since those records began in 1985, according to ONS message.